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Well done Mark Vokey


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-year-old 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). Another Newfoundlander, Sgt. Bradley Hiscock (flight engineer) of Grand Falls-Windsor, was also on that chopper.

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.

— Terry Roberts

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