Submitted by VK2DCR on

Starting on the 11th June, 13 Members of WICEN NSW participated in the State Rescue Board sponsored Multi-Agency Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX 2015).

Instead of the usual northern tablelands location, looking for the ill-fated VH-MDX Cessna aircraft, the exercise this time was based in the Deua National Park about an hour and half out of Moruya.

The aim was “To test a large scale multi agency response, coordination and deployment arrangements of Search And Rescue resources into the field.”

The exercise location is accessible by 4 wheel drive vehicles only, over steep fire trails and through a number of river crossings.

Approximately 180 personnel from many New South Wales agencies were involved.

Led by the Police Force, other agencies included the
Volunteer Rescue Association, (in particular the Bushwalkers and Wilderness Rescue Squad and WICEN)
Rural Fire Service
State Emergency Service
National Parks and Wildlife Service
and the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter

WICEN’s roles were:
To provide VHF & UHF communications for the LAND SAR search teams in the main search area.
To act as radio operators at the Command Post and to manage and log radio communications for the search teams.

An advance group from WICEN moved in on the Thursday, to set up equipment and facilities within the command post.
On Friday, two teams deployed from Sydney. One, (led by Mal VK2YVA) of five members, to set up a Radio Post on a ridge overlooking the exercise area. The other team, consisting of the WICEN Commander (Compton VK2HRX) and Deputy Commander (Nic VK2KXN) and the operator team of 6 went directly to the Command Post.

Early Saturday morning search teams assembled and set off in the cold and fog to look for the five passengers and remains of VH-123, supposedly gone missing from the day before (and represented by the remains of a light aircraft fuselage, previously dropped in by helicopter)

By afternoon, the ‘plane’ had been found and three of the passengers accounted for. Search parties camped overnight and took up the task to look for the two ‘missing’ people on Sunday.
By lunch time, all had been accounted for, and the teams returned to base. The WICEN team (and everyone else) packed up, and headed home.

Operationally WICEN managed, in an area with no mobile telephone coverage, three search networks, a fleet of 18 APRS trackers, a WINLINK HF system for incoming and outgoing email including regular SITREPS to agency command centres in Sydney. Thanks to VK2SYD for supporting us with this link.

This is Doug VK2DCR, on behalf of WICEN NSW Incorporated.