The Code 3, Beginning My Journey as a 1st Responder
by Spyder Thompson
There is an unsung warrior class right here amongst us. They answer the call of duty at the worst possible times, traveling to the worst possible places, quite often during the worst weather that mother nature can muster. They are the ones that run towards the columns of smoke and disaster, are ushered through road blocks to go do battle with the dragons of accidents, attacks, and natural disasters. All “so that others may live,” and while these warriors do wear uniforms, they are not multi-cam. There are no holidays dinners, birthday parties of loved ones, or Christmas mornings that are off duty. Many of them are not paid for their service, yet they put their lives on the line every time they are called out.
They are the men and women of the EMS (Emergency Medical Services,) SAR (Search and Rescue,) Firefighters (both structural and wild-land,) and Police. They are America’s first responder communities.
I, at one time, came from the mindset that all government employees were to be looked at with suspicion and mistrust. That was before I joined the ranks of the 1st responders. But now, I have knowledge from direct experience, and it has dramatically changed my view of the men and women who serve these agencies. That’s not to say that there are not bad people who are members of these communities, it just means that we must look at the greater picture and recognize them as the bad apples that they are. That, and we must be diligent in calling out the bad apples and hold them to account for their actions.
My journey started a couple of years back when I was working as a writer for a political website. In my work, I had come across Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers, after he had just launched his CPT (Community Preparedness Teams) initiative. This, I thought, was a great idea. I joined my local CPT and began training regularly with them. The Oath Keepers national call to action and official guidance on CPT urges them to join their local first responder community and integrate with it. This, I think, is crucial and there are CPT teams across the country that do this very well and those where it really needs to be focused on.
The original purpose and intent of the CPT program is to prepare the community, not just the teams. This is the driving concept that each CPT team across the country needs to keep in the forefront of their training and activities. If they (the CPT team) do not keep this as part of the mission it can cause problems at the local level. If there has been not enough, or no contact with the existing first responder teams before an event happens it can, for all intense purposes, cause the 1st responder community to look at CPT with suspicion and possibly worse – believe the erroneous message of the main stream media that CPT and the Oath Keepers are “anti-government.” If this were the case, then when a large-scale incident were to happen, there would not be the trust and rapport needed to call on them for assistance. How could we fix this problem? By taking our existing skill sets and eagerness to learn and join the existing first responder communities.
Living in the mountains of the west, I thought that joining my local Search and Rescue team might be a good start. It would further the skills I already had in land navigation, communications, wilderness survival, and medical care, all while helping me to get into better shape, which at the time I was in desperate need of. The process was pretty straight forward, I found their website and submitted an online application. Within a month, I was contacted by the team’s president and an interview was set up for after the next monthly meeting of the membership. During the interview, they asked about my past experience and what my motivation was for wanting to join the team. Really, for me, my main motivation was to give back to my local community in a tangible way. I remember thinking that if one of my three daughters was cold, hurt, alone, and lost in the wilderness, what kind of person would I want to be out there searching for her and in the end the answer to that question was someone like me.
It was in the next month, I was made a probationary member of the team. I needed to get my CPR license updated and also needed to take and pass the SAR Tech 1 certification through NASAR (The National Association for Search and Rescue.) NASAR was founded in 1972 for the training of search and rescue, disaster relief, emergency medicine, and awareness education. NASAR is interested in search and rescue as a humanitarian mission. They also provide a national standard for training and skills. Once I accomplished these, I was able to be called out for missions.
I really cannot believe that more people are not interested in being a part of their local SAR team. During the first year of training, I was able to train with and become competent in several areas that are incredibly exciting. Rappelling, 4×4 riding, snowmobiles/snow cats, and boats are just a few of the types of experiences you will get to have. All this while building team dynamics and really getting a sense that you are really helping people on some of the worst days of their lives.
After being a member of the SAR team for about a year, I went on to join the local ambulance service. This, I really kind of fell into. I had heard from a fellow member of the CPT team that the ambulance service was having their 24-hour refresher course once a week and that it was free and open to the public. I began attending their trainings, hoping just to get some emergency medical training that would be of use in my SAR callouts. I found that I had a keen interest in Emergency Medicine and within in 2 months of training I began driving for the ambulance service. A month later I was working on attaining my own EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) license. That summer I was brought on to the service as a full member. That would be a very busy summer for me as I also applied for, and was accepted to be a wildland fire fighter (as a fire-line qualified EMT). A week after passing my NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians,) I was living out of a tent on an isolated mountain side going through the USFS (United States Forest Service) Guard School. This is the training one must go through to become a type 2 wildland fire fighter. That summer would prove to be one of the most intense fire seasons in history and I would travel to 6 different fires.
I now have an immense feeling of pride in serving and giving back what I can to my community. I have an ever-evolving skill set that is continuously being added to and I am in the best shape of my life!
In this new series of articles “Code 3”, I will be discussing different aspects of the first responder communities and what it is like to live the life of a first responder. Additionally, I will also be putting out gear reviews, going over new tools and tech that can help in the fight “so that others may live.”
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