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Seek and you shall find

GATESVILLE – It’s a methodical, often painstaking process, but the end result is worth every drop of sweat.

Gates County hosted the 2018 NorthEast SARex (Search and Rescue Exercise) on May 3-6 at a site just east of Eason Crossroads off US 158.

Over the course of the four-day event, 20 different search and rescue agencies from North Carolina and Virginia – all featuring highly skilled personnel – took part in the training exercise.

Shortly after lunch on Thursday, the search/rescue units assembled at that time were given their first mission – finding a male subject, suffering from dementia, who had wandered off into a heavily wooded area. His vehicle was found behind a barn and it appeared no foul play was involved.

Local law enforcement was the initial responder at the outset of that particular exercise.

“The (Gates County) Sheriff did his investigation in and around that vehicle and then called us in,” said Gates County Emergency Management Director Billy Winn of the scenario. “That’s the way it works here in North Carolina; every report of a missing person first goes through the sheriff of that county. He or she performs the initial assessment. After that assessment points towards the person walking away from the scene and hasn’t been seen or heard from, that’s when we’re called in for search and rescue.”

The search effort is highly coordinated. After the SAR units arrive, each are briefed on the situation and then are assigned search grids (specific areas) to search. That effort includes the use of keen and observant eyes as the searches look for clues, to include footprints. Those clues are posted electronically back at the command center.

The subject being sought from Thursday was found late Friday night.

Following breakfast on Saturday, the search teams were presented with another scenario, a 40-year-old male that went missing after a turkey hunt. The search commenced at the point where the man left his truck parked up a wooded path and included areas in and near farm fields, a swamp, the nearby state park, and residential areas.

This particular scenario involved the use of K-9 search teams, equine search teams, and drone search teams.

“You use all the resources made available to you,” Winn said.

Winn said the four days of training will be beneficial when SAR teams are summoned for an actual search and rescue mission.

“We have the opportunity to practice and sharpen our skills through the use of a wide variety of technology and resources that are used to promote real life missing persons scenarios,” he stated. “These exercises also allow search teams the opportunity to work together, try new equipment and follow establish NC Emergency Management search and rescue procedures.”

North Carolina-based agencies participating in the training exercise included North Carolina Emergency Management, North Carolina Task Force 10, Gates County Emergency Management, Hertford County Emergency Management, Beaufort County Emergency Management, and Tyrrell County Emergency Management.

SAR teams participating included Tidewater Search and Rescue, Pineland Search and Rescue, Pender County Search and Rescue Team, Northeast Search and Rescue, Chocowinity Search and Rescue, and Coastal Search and Rescue.

K-9 teams came from Wake County and Central Carolina while the equine team was from Pineland Search and Rescue.

Also actively taking part in the training exercise were the Gates County Sheriff’s Office, Gates County Rescue Squad, and Suffolk Fire & Rescue.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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