Earlier this month VISAR sent Cris Ruffell Smith to Puerto Rico for a Search & Rescue Coordination and Execution course taught by the United States Coast Guard Training Center in Virginia. Cris has been a VISAR volunteer since 1989 and been a crew member since 1990. In addition, Cris has served in various Board positions, including Vice President and Tortola Crew Representative, for 17 years.
Cris sat down with VISAR’s Administrator to talk about the trip and what he learned:
Q: Please describe your overall experience of the course
A: It was enlightening. The training that VISAR does in-house shows that we are on par with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) training standards. It was a four day intensive review examination course at the USCG training center where various topics were presented by USCG Yorktown Search and Rescue instructors. There was a considerable amount of required reading about subjects that encompassed USCG search and rescue elements. Some of the topics that were new for me were ice breaking ships, navigational marine and various types of aviation assets. We are not familiar with these assets at VISAR so it was a learning experience for me. My position was unique in that I was the only civilian there; other participants were USCG personnel, USCG Auxiliary, USCG Air Wing and other governmental personnel. I had to complete extra homework and supplemental reading to catch up. My fellow class mates had months of preparation time for this review and examination so unfortunately there was no time to socialize whilst burning the midnight oil studying!
Q: What were some highlights of the course and your experience?
A: This was the highest level of any training that I have received whilst being a volunteer for VISAR so I felt good about completing the course and gaining the extra knowledge. The highest highlight was being told that I passed the exam, especially at the expected pass level of a USCG personnel, which is over 80%.
Q: What did it mean to you to attend the training and course on behalf of VISAR?
A: I was proud to have been selected to take this course as one of the longest standing VISAR volunteers. The knowledge, training and experience I have gained from being a VISAR volunteer certainly assisted me heavily for the intense course and helped carry me to a level where I could pass the exam. Being respected and held in high regard by the USCG reflects the way VISAR as an organization has developed over the years to its current capability and its working relationships with Sector San Juan, Saint Thomas Boat Station and their inter-agency cooperation. I believe VISAR is on a firm platform for search and rescue capabilities and I will pass on what I learnt to other VISAR volunteers.
VISAR wishes to thank Cris Ruffell Smith for his dedication and service to VISAR.