For veteran Pat Pierce, the Royal Canadian Air Force training mission underway in southern Alberta is a blast from the past.
“I was in the Air Force for three years,” he said. “I jumped with the army, the RCRs out of a C-119, which is way different than that Hercules.”
He is a volunteer with the Civilian Air Search and Rescue Association which helped the Air Force with a specialized search-and-rescue training mission in southern Alberta.
“We’re going to do what is called an airborne intercept,” Sgt. Darcy Keating of the Transport Search and Rescue squadron explained. “We are going to try and locate this plane visually and then we are going to talk them into where the airport is so it can land safely.
“Sometime during that, something else is going to go wrong and we are going to respond to an actual crash.”
There is a lot more to the training scenario than just spotting a downed plane. Once it’s located, a specialized medical team jumps from the Hercules and lands at the crash site.
“We are actually primary care paramedics, but we go a little further than primary care because with our role, we could be way up north and be on the ground two or three days before we get extracted. We will do a little long-term care that normally a paramedic wouldn’t do,” Keating said.
The squadron trains for a number of different types of missions, ranging from plane crashes to a sinking boat or a missing person.
“I’m based out of 435 Transport Rescue squadron in Winnipeg and our area covers the border with Alberta and B.C, up to the North Pole, south to the border of the U.S.,” Keating said. “We also share with Trenton into Ontario, so we get a vast area that we will cover.”
For Pierce, the training mission gave him a chance to brush up on his spotting skills and reminisce about his days as a jumper.
“These guys are a lot better than we were and the shoots are better too!”