RCAF marks graduation of 50th search and rescue course

News Article / July 7, 2017

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Royal Canadian Air Force

Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan and Royal Canadian Air Force leaders welcomed 11 new search and rescue technicians (SAR techs) into their trade yesterday 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.

“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.”

About the course

The year-long course trains search and rescue technicians to be primary care paramedics armed with expertise in land and sea survival, parachuting, mountaineering, diving and flying operations.

Eleven students graduated from this course; they will now be posted to search and rescue squadrons across the country. Training took place in numerous locations including Comox, Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia; Jarvis Lake and Jasper National Park, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories.

History of SAR training

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 organize the recovery of accident victims.  The first Para Rescue School formed in Edmonton in 1944 and the first course started on February 12, 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, 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.

“Being the 50th graduating class, these search and rescue technician students had a rich and proud heritage to live up to – and they have,” said Major John Coffin, CFSSAR’s commandant. “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.”

Search and rescue technicians: “That Others May Live”

There are approximately 140 Search and Rescue Technicians, all members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. They are highly trained specialists who provide advanced pre-hospital medical care and rescue for aviators, mariners and others in distress in remote or hard-to-reach areas. These men and women are trained to a primary care paramedic national standard with additional advanced skills.

SAR techs are present on every RCAF primary SAR aircraft deployed on a SAR mission and they have saved thousands of lives nationwide.

Their motto is “That Others May Live”.

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