By: Blonde Two

Rescue Robin.023 - Version 2If you have been reading our blog, you will know that the Two Blondes have been in training over the last few months for their Walking Group Leader awards.  These have now been firmly placed in the bog/bag (so to speak) but we know that we are still far from perfect!  Particularly, it seems, if you compare Dartmoor Rescue training to what we had to do.

The Dartmoor Rescue “Red Jacket” is definitely not something that is given out lightly.  It is clearly much valued by those that have worked and worked to earn it and recognised all over Dartmoor by those who might need it one day.  Let me tell you what we found out about the training process during our visit on Saturday.

Stage One – Selection  Once a year, DSRT Ashburton hold a selection day to which they invite the prospective recruits whose applications seem to best fit the bill.  They are looking for people with a wide variety of skills but some experience of hill navigation is a requirement.  During the first part of the day, the role and the commitments involved are explained.  The commitments are huge but it is clear from talking to the guys, that the enjoyment and camaraderie matches these.  The candidates have to take a written paper and then it is a drive up onto Dartmoor for some navigation and survival exercises.

Stage Two – Trainees   Existing members work very hard to train trainees.  To help balance the needs of both, the annual intake of trainees is limited to approximately 10% of the membership, which means that only a few of those who attended the selection day are successful the first time around. If they are successful, there is a month of weekly evening training sessions before they are given their log book.  Now I have a walking log book and it is quite simple to fill in – you just have to do a lot of hill walking and write little notes on it.  The Dartmoor Rescue log book however, is in a league of its own and requires over 60 signatures for a myriad of skills including Casualty Care, micro navigation, swift water skills, rope work and radio competency.  As you can imagine, this can take a while to complete (typically 12-18 months) but again the team spirit shone through as the guys told us about how much help and support is offered to the trainees.

Stage Three – All Night Navigation  This is designed not only to test night navigation expertise (aarrgh!) but to find out how trainees cope when they are exhausted and under stress.  There is an excellent account of a recent night nav experience (well done Lugs) on the DSRT website Lugs apparently hasn’t taken his jacket off since he earned it.  Suffice it to say, I found three hours night nav challenging enough and I know that it was in a much more forgiving area of the moors.

Stage Four – Full Membership  The hard work and commitment of these guys doesn’t end here.  Training continues for all members and some choose to do more in specialised areas.

So if you ever see one of those fabulous red jackets out on the moors (hopefully you won’t be the emergency) spare a thought for the guys wearing them because they have worked very hard indeed to earn them.  Apart maybe, from one team member – we were introduced to Rescue Robin as he sneaked a few morsels of cake from the table.  He does have a red jacket, has his wings but has not completed his log book.  The other issue is of course, that he is only about 10 cm tall.