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VIDEO: Simulated air crash sharpens Royal Canadian Air Force's search and rescue skills

The $65,000 exercise includes participation from other search and rescue agencies, the RCMP and Canadian Coast Guard, among others

The commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force's search and rescue unit says their annual week-long training exercise is a great opportunity to sharpen skills and ensure they are communitcating effectively with the civilian partner agencies they work with.

The Canadian Airforce’s 424 (Transport and Rescue) Squadron, based at CFB Trenton, conduct their annual TIGEREX exercise in a different location every year.

Last year's exercise was conducted in the Barrie area, this year Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario was chosen.

Lieutenant-Colonel Dany Poitras, commanding officer of 424 Squadron, said the exercise is a great opportunity to include their SAR partners to ensure everyone is ‘speaking the same language.’

“We train every day as a unit. When we are not tasked on a mission we train, that is what we do for a living,” said Poitras.

The squadron operates in the central region of Canada, from the Rocky Mountains in the west to Quebec City in the east and from the Great Lakes to the Arctic.

Sgt. Aaron Bygrove, lead SAR Tech with 424 Squadron, said his unit is available on 30 minutes notice.

“We can be expected to be deployed anywhere in [the central region] any time during the year. If there is a situation that dictates, and we can be there quickly, we will be helping out our other units in their regions,” said Bygrove.

He said the intention of the training exercises is to eventually replace himself as head SAR Tech.

“The team leaders want to make the team members into team leaders and everyone has to progress. Someone needs to take over for me, that’s something the

The exercise includes participation from other search and rescue agencies, as well as the Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards, Sault Search and Rescue, RCMP, OPP, local fire departments and Sault Area Hospital.

At the end of one scenario, SAR Techs handed a mock victim directly to a doctor at the local hospital.

”On a normal day we cannot achieve that level of detail, it takes a lot of coordination,” said Poitras.

Poitras said on the squadron’s end, the cost of the operation is about $65,000, not including fuel.

“We don’t include that in the operation because the same hours would be flown on any given training day. It’s a really good bang for the buck if you think about the number of people getting quite a bit of training out of it,” he said.

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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