Team Functions

A SAR field team is never a single person, for obvious safety reasons. Depending on the task assignment and field conditions, a team may vary from two to as many as twenty or more. It is useful to think about the duties that must be covered on a field team:

1. Leadership – provided by a field team leader (or mission team leader), or a person who is "field-promoted" to perform that role (always taking care that he or she is qualified to take it on safely). (There may also be an assistant team leader, especially when the size of the team is larger than five or six.) The FTL interprets the task, briefs and debriefs the team (unless a briefing officer at Base can do this directly), manages their efforts, and ensures proper documentation and reporting.

2. Safety Supervision – another role of the FTL or, in some cases, the medical officer. This duty takes into account weather conditions, terrain, potential hazards and management of injuries or other medical concerns (such as exhaustion or hypothermia) among the members of the team.

3. Communications — radio operation is often a duty that can be assigned to another member of the team to free up the FTL. All comms, however, should be cleared with the FTL. Base will have specified check-in calls at regular intervals, and events in the field may indicate that other calls be made. The comms person should be prepared to give the team’s current coordinates at each new contact.

4. Recording — communications, movements, clue discovery and other notable events must be logged and recorded. This may be done by the comms person, or another team member. In encountering a scene, this person may take photographs, create sketches or interview persons.

5. Navigation — determining location and direction of travel may fall to the FTL, the assistant FTL, or some other FTM. (This may be one of the duties assigned to a ground searcher when flanking for a K9 team.) It is an essential function for the safety and efficiency of the team, as well as the effectiveness of the overall search.

6. Medical Supervision/Treatment – the medic is usually the person with the highest level of wilderness medical training. Their duties include patient assessment, triage, treatment and supervision of the subject during evacuation. Their level of qualification determines what can be provided to the subject (or another team member) in an austere environment. Others may assist in managing medical equipment, and carrying out the medic’s interventions.

7. Rescue/Evacuation – a person other than the FTL of the find-team may be assigned the role of coordinating what must be done to extract the subject, especially if the individual is Status Two, and there are technical challenges to be met. The Rescue On-Scene Coordinator, or ROC, supervises litter wrapping, evacuation route planning, and BUD-DUB or vertical movement.

8. Base Officer – where there must be extensive interaction between a field team and Base operations, it may be useful for the team itself to have a representative at Base, who can help coordinate provision of extra resources, consultation with Mission Command, etc.

As you can see, if the team is only three persons, each may wear several hats. If the team is large (such as in a close-grid sweep task), some duties will be performed by multiple persons. Each one of the SAR personnel ought to train in as many of these duties as possible, in order that he or she might be able to assume them, as circumstances require

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