Canadian Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) leaders welcomed 11 new search and rescue technicians (SAR techs) into their trade on 6 July at 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia.
The graduates from the Canadian Forces School of Search and Rescue were students on the 50th SAR tech course conducted in Canadian Armed Forces’ history. The graduation marks the successful completion of an intense year of training that prepares students to become primary care paramedics armed with expertise in land and sea survival, parachuting, mountaineering, diving and flying operations, said the RCAF.
“It is a pleasure to congratulate Canada’s newest search and rescue technicians, and to mark the 50th search and rescue technician graduation class of the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Defence Minister Sajjan. “After enduring almost a year of some of the most intensive training in Canada’s toughest terrain, these SAR techs have earned the right to join their colleagues in carrying out the most demanding of rescue missions.”
The 11 students that graduated from this course will now be posted to SAR squadrons across Canada. Training took place in numerous locations including Comox, Victoria and Vancouver in British Columbia; Jarvis Lake and Jasper National Park in Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories.
The Canadian Armed Forces have been training personnel in search and rescue techniques since 1944. While this is the 50th graduating course of search and rescue technicians, courses have not been run every year.
Originally called ‘para rescue’, the concept was the brain child of Wilfred Reid (Wop) May who envisioned a team that would be able to parachute into a crash site to administer first aid and organise the recovery of accident victims, noted the RCAF. The first Para Rescue School formed in Edmonton in 1944 and the first course started on 12 February 1945 with 12 candidates. Course duration was originally planned for 15 weeks, but due to weather and equipment delays, the course lasted 19 weeks.
In 1964, the Para Rescue Course came under the RCAF Survival Training School in Edmonton and, in 1996, the Canadian Forces School of Search and Rescue (CFSSAR) was created in Comox. The first course graduated in 1998 and courses have graduated annually since 2005.
Major John Coffin, CFSSAR’s commandant, commented: “Being the 50th graduating class, these search and rescue technician students had a rich and proud heritage to live up to – and they have. Those who have passed through this school have gone on to save thousands of lives, and I am confident these graduates will proudly follow in their footsteps.”