Well done Mark Vokey

The Compass - - OPINION - — Terry Roberts

This is how the Cana­dian Forces de­scribe the job of a search and res­cue tech­ni­cian:

They are mem­bers of the elite, highly trained res­cue spe­cial­ist teams who pro­vide on-scene med­i­cal aid and evac­u­a­tion all over Canada, re­gard­less of the con­di­tions. They lo­cate, treat and evac­u­ate ca­su­al­ties. Search and Res­cue op­er­a­tions may re­quire parachut­ing, moun­taineer­ing, hik­ing, swim­ming, and div­ing. Wow. Ready to sign up? Didn’t think so. SAR techs, as they are more com­monly known, are among the most dec­o­rated mem­bers of the Cana­dian Forces, and for good rea­son. They of­ten put their own lives on the line in the face of great odds and ex­treme weather, and most times with very lit­tle fan­fare or recog­ni­tion.

With only 150 of them in Canada, they are a breed onto their own. It’s a ma­ture trade, is how one SAR tech put it re­cently. The job is only open to non-com­mis­sioned mem­bers of the Forces, though some of­fi­cers have been known to sur­ren­der their com­mis­sions in or­der to join their ranks.

They are nat­u­ral lead­ers, highly skilled, and rarely shrink from a chal­lenge. They are also re­li­able, in­de­pen­dent thinkers, great team play­ers, and must be in top phys­i­cal con­di­tion.

This prov­ince has pro­duced more than its fair share of SAR techs, and some of them have made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice, in­clud­ing Mas­ter Cpl. Kirk Noel, 33, a SAR tech from St. An­thony. Noel was one of three killed when a Cor­morant he­li­copter crashed dur­ing a train­ing mis­sion in Nova Sco­tia in 2006. Another New­found­lan­der, 39-yearold flight engi­neer Sgt. Duane Brazil from Gan­der, also per­ished in the in­ci­dent.

On oc­ca­sion, the ex­ploits of th­ese courageous spe­cial­ists make head­lines, and we are re­minded of the im­por­tant role they play, es­pe­cially in a chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ment like New­found­land and Labrador. Such was the case in Fe­bru­ary, when a Cor­morant from Gan­der, de­spite a rag­ing bliz­zard and high winds, plucked three bird hunters from their small boat in Bon­av­ista Bay.

At the end of that life­line — in this case a cable low­ered from the he­li­copter — was Spa­niard’s Bay na­tive Mas­ter Cpl. Mark Vokey. Vokey was a mem­ber of a five-per­son crew that saved the three hunters, and the mis­sion was de­scribed by one search and res­cue of­fi­cial as one of the most dar­ing of all time.

Fit­tingly, the crewmem­bers of Res­cue 912 — its ra­dio call sign that night — have been rec­og­nized far and wide for their pro­fes­sion­al­ism, team­work, ex­per­tise and courage (see re­lated story on Page A1)

The ocean has pro­vided sus­te­nance and a liveli­hood to the peo­ple of this prov­ince for hun­dreds of years, and that can be a dan­ger­ous com­bi­na­tion. Luck­ily, we have peo­ple like Mas­ter Cpl. Mark Vokey ready to an­swer the call when help is needed.

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