The Survival Group Leader
Monday 29th April saw the start of the first ever SGL course – and what a course it was! We met the candidates down at the Alvie Estate office near Aviemore before ferrying them up to a remote hunting lodge in the Monadliath mountains which we used as an HQ throughout the course.
With any training programme it’s important to get the basics in place, so the first part of day 1 was spent in lectures on the origins and principles of Survival training, and a lot of group discussion on topics such as ‘where does Survival training fit into outdoor pursuits’ and ‘how is it (ST) differentiated from bushcraft and other activities’? These group discussions were really interesting because not only the Instructors but the candidates had a wealth of experience in different fields – we had mountaineers, gamekeepers, hunters and sailors, all wanting to learn how to put a common safety framework around their group survival activities.
In the Survival Training Award Scheme we teach the PLAN-M system.
This stands for: Protection, Location, Acquisition, Navigation, Medical – so the first order of the day was to get out in the weather and practice protection strategies including the protection of casualties.
From an aspirant SGL point of view this means developing a full understanding of clothing systems, survival bags, tents and of course, bivouacs using only what nature provides. Many hours later, the candidates were comfortably ensconced ‘underground’ in a fantastic turf-roofed shelter where they survived the night’s wind and rain in absolute comfort (although there were a few snoring complaints in the morning). For our part this is always the most important lesson with any group – that with the right knowledge and skills it is possible to be comfortable in the most unlikely places!
The course moved on through the week in a blur of activities, focusing on all the major survival elements as well as the group leadership principles, duty of care in training and legal requirements.
Water acquisition, treatment, sterilisation using chemicals, boiling and filtration with the very latest equipment were covered in detail as providing safe, clean water is an absolute essential. The group also learned about fire lighting, fire management under our policy of ‘leave no trace’ and group cooking with and without equipment. As part of the group cooking lessons we covered game preparation and each of the students was required to clean pluck and prepare a pigeon, then to skin and prepare a rabbit – after suitable instruction, of course!
There were a number of overnight locations used, all of which were left exactly as found, before the candidates assembled in the big clearing for the final exercise of the course – LOCATION, or getting rescued by alerting a scheduled passing aircraft as the exercise scenario went. This exercise was not only highly practical, but a lot of fun and the guys got to deploy every conceivable method of attracting rescue from the oldest to the newest – whistles, heliographs, flares and smoke signals, right through to radio and satellite communications. In a real survival situation we would have been rescued for sure!
Feedback after this new award course has been really positive so the Survival Training Award Scheme (STAS) is proceeding to roll out the course in both the UK and North America in conjunction with the introductory Survival Aware course, and the Personal Survival Award. As the course came to a conclusion, each candidate had the benefit of individual feedback and development advice based on observations of their performance throughout the course. All were at a very high level of proficiency and will be able to confidently present themselves for assessment after a period of skills consolidation.
If you are interested in learning more about survival training at any level we invite you to let us recommend a course which will meet your needs – just contact us by email or phone any time.