The Canadian Forces Search and Rescue (SAR) is arguably the best in the world. Responsible for saving lives in some of the most isolated and demanding terrain and oceans, totalling over 15,000,000 square km's. Search and Rescue Technicians (SARTechs) from across Canada hone their skills annually in a National Search and Rescue Exercise - SAREX.
SAREX 2004 was held at 19 Wing, CFB Comox, located on Canada's west coast, and organized by Comox own SAR unit, 442 Transport and Rescue (TR) "Snake" Squadron. All SAR units across Canada would compete for 11 Department of Defence Trophies and the best squadron earning bragging rights for the next twelve months.
The seven squadrons would compete in 5 seperate events that would demonstrate each units abilities in specific areas of SAR. With annual exercises like SAREX, squadrons are able to exchange information and lessons learned over the past year. The close knit group of 750 SAR members-including 131 SARTechs- that make up the Canadian Forces SAR, are a specialized group of men and women that are on call 365 days a year and respond to calls in any weather and at any time of the day or night. The 4 days I spent flying with and experiencing their skill up close was an amazing opportuntiy that demonstrated why the Canadian Forces SAR is known as the best of the best.
The local media was invited to 442 Sqn. on Monday to talk to the organizers of this years SAREX, Capt. Kevin Toone and Major Christian Lalande. Before the media talked to the pilots, they put on a hoist demonstration with their CH-149 Cormorant. The demonstration took place inside the infield near the control tower in an area known as the "Pea Bowl", this area is used quite often by the SARTechs at Comox for training. Once the demo was complete and Cormorant 904 was shut down, Capt. Toone and Maj. Lalande answered some questions from the local TV and newspaper crews.
At 14:40 the CC-150 Polaris (Airbus 310) arrived with the participants for SAREX. Coming from across Canada to compete in the week long exercise were; 103 Sqn. from Gander, 413 from Greenwood N.S., 444Sqn. from Goose Bay, 439 ESC from Bagotville QC, 435 Sqn from Winnipeg, 424 Sqn. from Trenton On and of course home based 442 Sqn. The Polaris was also carrying all the equipment for the visiting SAR members and was unloaded through its large starboard cargo door.