June 4 Recovery Course by Mark

The Two Rivers Jeep Club held a Recovery Class on June 4th, 2011.  The weather was hot and clear and it hadn’t rained for a couple of days so we found the trails were pretty dry.  Turnout was low with only the three instructors and twelve club members showing up at the VFW for breakfast.  We had plenty of food and good conversation before class started. 

Dave Christensen talked me into being the coordinator and an instructor for the class a couple of years ago as he’s forgotten how to get to Pittsfield.  The class is designed to be a basic introductory recovery class covering various areas such as Critical Incident Command, liability issues, club rules and policies, assessing the individual situation, assessing injuries, providing medical assistance, contacting local first responders and vehicle recovery.  We consider vehicle recovery as everything from using a strap or winch to pull a vehicle to getting a rolled over vehicle back onto its wheels.  Our goal was to find people within the club that not only had experience in the required fields but also in training first responders. 

The club is lucky to have Chief Steve Gambrill as a member and instructor.  He brings over forty four years experience as a fire fighter and thirty years of command experience as a Fire Chief with many certifications and training classes in Critical Incident Command, injured persons extrication and vehicle recovery to the table.  He is also an instructor at the Richland Community College Fire Science Program.

Dave Bell joined us as an instructor this year.  He is an engineer who works with, designs and inspects lifting devices, straps and chains.  He also runs an of road vehicle shop where he builds complete vehicles, bumpers, winch plates and recovery points.  Dave spent three years active duty Army and five years in the Army Reserves as a wheeled vehicle mechanic.  He was assigned to a HEMTT wrecker crew, was a trainer for his units’ basic recovery class and has seen a lot of damage caused by the failure of recovery equipment.

My experience includes working as a wrecker operator in my younger years, being in the medics for four years in the Air Force and twenty nine years law enforcement experience.  My law enforcement training included certification in Critical Incident Response and Critical Incident Command by the Illinois State Police.  I was the director of a 400 hour Part Time Police Academy and I am a certified instructor by the Illinois Law Enforcement Officers Training and Standards Board for many law enforcement classes.

We spent about two hours at the VFW in classroom training and discussion.  People were allowed to ask questions and discuss incidents that they had seen.   

Dave Bell obtained a Ford Explorer for our use and we were very happy to abuse it.  Dave towed it to Murphy’s Law where everyone met for hands on training.  After unloading the Explorer I towed it with a strap to the trail while Dave drove it, a very brave thing on his part.  We found a shaded hill that was wet and I was unable to pull the Explorer to the top of the hill.  After several attempts we used this as a training exercise on the use of straps.  We found that it took three Jeeps strapped together to get the Explorer to the top of the hill.  After that we got the Explorer to the area that the Chief chose to use as a training area.   

We put the Explorer on its side in the bottom of a creek bed and the participants then practiced the recovery.  Two Jeeps with winches were used, one to secure the vehicle from further movement and the other to return it to its wheel.  At another scenario the Explorer was again put onto its side and participants were told to treat the situation as if there was an injured person inside and it had to be returned to its wheels before the person could be extricated.  Again, two Jeeps with winches were used.  One was set up with its cable through a snatch block attached to a tree and then to the Explorer where it was used to control the Explorer as it was pulled over by the second Jeep.   They did a great job on this, setting the Explorer gently and smoothly back onto its wheels.

During the scenarios that we set up the instructors stood back and allowed the participants to act as if the incident had occurred while they were on the trails together.  They had to pick a person to be in charge, assess the situation, organize their actions and then work together to make the recovery.  I believe that everyone there saw how hard it can be to take charge and give direction to other people while supervising a recovery operation.  There is a lot on the plate when you accept that responsibility and not everyone can do it, this was also part of the training that was covered.

After the class ended we spent a couple of hours wheeling on Murphy’s Law, really enjoying the relatively dry ground.  We then adjourned to the Maya Mexican Restaurant for a long debriefing in their air conditioned comfort where a meal and a few cool beverages were consumed.  I think that everyone had a pretty good time and I hope that they took home some things that they may have never experienced or thought about previously. 

I would like to thank everyone for attending and the Chief and Dave Bell for all of their help, time and experience.  The Chiefs experience and knowledge is obvious as soon as he starts to speak.  Dave added things to the class that neither the Chief nor I had experience in.  Dave spent a lot of time obtaining the Explorer for our use, picking it up, draining the fluids, bringing it to the club and then returning it to the wrecker service so they could finish destroying it.

We intend to hold a recovery class every year and hope that more of the club members will take advantage of the training.  We are also looking for a donor vehicle for the class.  A Jeep Wrangler with the sports bar installed would be preferred but a Cherokee or similar vehicle would be welcome.  The donation of a “junker” would be greatly appreciated.  We need it on four wheels and it would be great if we could set the emergency brake or park it in gear.  The donator could strip the doors, tops, spare tire, etc and it would still work well for us.  We would not insure or drive it, but would leave it sitting at Murphy’s Law for use in the class.  If anyone is going to junk a vehicle we could use please contact me and let me know what it would cost to get you to donate it to the club.



Created: 15 June 2011