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Michigan Backcountry Search and Rescue (MibSAR)
Volunteer requirements

By
Michael Neiger
Marquette, Michigan
© Copyright 2012

 

Remember that one man [woman]
is much the same as another,
and that he [she] is best
who is trained in the severest school.
 —Thucydides, Greek General, 460-400 B.C.
History of the Peloponnesian War

Michigan Backcountry Search and Rescue (MibSAR) is often looking for a volunteer or two for wilderness operations conducted by either its Short-Range Special Operations Group (SRSOG) or Long-Range Special Operations Group (LRSOG).

  • SRSOG operations generally involve focused, multiday, line or lane searches in moderately-challenging wilderness, with volunteers carrying a 8/24-hour rucksack load while underway, and working out of a SAR basecamp, one they've established in a road-accessible area or by backpacking their kit into a remote area.
  • LRSOG operations generally involve arduous, long-range, freestyle recon as well as difficult searches of very-challenging swamps, marshes, semi-mountainous terrain, and waterways, as well as winter searches involving deep snow and deep cold. LRSOG is the first MibSAR crew to respond on a new case, usually conducting a heavy operation (one involving rucks with full, multi-day loads), with volunteers working long days, and bivouacking in place when the sun sets.

Led by Michael Neiger of Marquette, Michigan, MibSAR is a non-motorized, special operations group (SOG) of hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool bushmen and bushwomen who thrive in remote, inhospitable wilderness.

Certified by the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR), they're at their best with map-and-compass in-hand, living out of a rucksack, panier, sledge, or canoe for days—sometimes weeks—at a time.

Skilled, wilderness survivalists by nature, these foul-weather-ready, fully-equipped, experienced backpackers spend dozens of nights in the bush of Canada and Michigan each year, including the dead of winter, sleeping in bivouac sacks, often under tarps. In addition to being very physically fit, and proficient swimmers, they're skilled land navigators.

Since they frequently work the bush fully equipped and provisioned for long-range operations—without support or resupply for up to 10 days at times—they're considered a heavy team by conventional SAR standards.

Integrity and character

Since MibSAR's operations regularly involve work with grieving family members, over-worked law enforcement investigators, witnesses, informants, potential suspects, government officials, members of the media, private property owners, personal property, public property, state artifacts, sensitive information, human remains, and forensic evidence—which in the past has been analyzed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Crime Laboratory, Michigan State Police Forensic Crime Laboratory sytem, and some of the Midwest's tops anthropologists—volunteers must have spotless criminal histories, be extremely honest, and very discrete.

Law-enforcement friendly

MibSAR's hand-in-hand work with local, county, tribal, state, and federal law enforcement officers and investigators means all volunteers must be law enforcement friendly.

Wilderness backpacking experience

To participate in MibSAR's wilderness operations, volunteers must be fully-equipped backpackers with lots of experience hiking and bivouacking off-trail, in the heat of the summer as well as the dead of the winter.

Physical fitness

Most of MibSAR's wilderness operations are strenuous and prolonged, so volunteers must be very physically fit, both aerobically and muscularly.

They must be fit enough to hump a heavy rucksack hour after hour, day after day under difficult environmental conditions such as extreme heat or cold, high winds, steep terrain, tangled bush, unstable or slippery ground, deep snow, etc., without undue fatigue, without becoming a hazard to themselves or others, and with enough reserve to deal with unforeseen emergencies.

Subdued clothing & gear

Since at least half of MibSAR's operations and investigations are criminal in nature—with some involving illegal drugs, weapons, foul play, homicide, and clandestine burial sites—and often require work in remote, seldom-traveled areas that poachers, marijuana growers, malcontents, miscreants, and other unfriendlies call home, all operational clothing, rainsuits, rucksacks, bivouac sacks, tarps, etc. must be low-profile in outward appearance.

Subdued colors such as brown, tan, gray, green, and black are acceptable colors; bright, attention-grabbing colors such red, yellow, orange, pink, and blue are not acceptable.

Heavy camouflage should also be avoided as it creates its own set of problems in encounters with law-abiding civilians.

If bright clothing is needed for certain line searches, or when working with traditional search-and-rescue teams, high-visibility vests, hats, and pack covers can be donned.

Low impact

To reduce the impact on the pristine areas MibSAR frequently operates in, all volunteers must be adherents to the low-impact ethos, which means bushwhacking and bivouacking without campfires, not cutting green vegetation and trees, burying all waste and toilet paper, restoring bivouac sites to the state they were found in, and packing out everything packed in.

Expenses

MibSAR is an all-volunteer, self-funded organization, one in which each volunteer covers his or her own expenses for clothing, gear, training, fuel, rations, travel, insurance, etc. It has no budget, and it does not solicit donations or conduct fundraising drives.

Fluid deployments

Due to the number of cases MibSAR works on, and the variability of a number of factors, including weather, flooding, access to private property, directives from an agency of jurisdiction, logging operations, road closures, etc., most of MibSAR's deployments are fluid in nature, with areas of operation determined on-site, once they get boots on the ground, and in consideration of the latest intel, including new areas of interest.

Response requirement

Since MibSAR works primarily on cold cases, most deployments are planned, multi-day, wilderness operations.

Volunteers must be willing and able to commit to several, multi-day, weekend-centered missions per year, all involving considerable travel in Northern Michigan, perhaps even the eastern Lake Superior watershed area of Ontario, Canada.

Training & certification requirements

As a multinational, civilian-based, volunteer special operations group (SOG), one with volunteers located 100s of miles apart, all of MibSAR's training and certification requirements are designed to be met either within a volunteer's local community, by drawing on local experts and organizations, or online, with recognized providers. Either way, volunteers must be willing and able to commit to considerable training and study demands on an ongoing basis.

You're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.

 —Christopher Robin, fictional character in Winnie-the-Pooh,
created by English author Alan Alexander Milne,
1882-1956

If you're a discreet, mature, nonsmoking, physically-and-mentally-robust outdoor enthusiast with a resilient spirit and lots of 4-season, all-weather, off-trail, wilderness backpacking experience, feel free to contact Michael Neiger of Marquette, Michigan to learn more about volunteering with MibSAR on its wilderness operations.

 

 

Volunteer requirements
Time frame requirement or certification must be met by
Re-cert intervals

Short-range
Special Operations Group

(SRSOG)
volunteers

Long-range
Special Operations Group

(LRSOG)
volunteers

Minimum
Physical
Fitness
Levels

Note: Volunteers must re-certify every April & October.

The 1/4-mile Swim & 3-mile Run Test

Swim 1/4 mile (440 yards) in a pool without stopping and with no flotation or propulsion aids (life-guard-protected pool-setting recommended; goggles recommended; no PFDs, wet suits, fins, mitts), 18-minute time limit.

Run 3 miles on a flat, unpaved road or trail without walking, 33-minute time limit.

Warning: This readiness test should not be attempted until your personal physician has signed off on it and you have arranged for the proper on-site support crew, including life guards and medics.

Contact leader for self-certification form, which must be sent in prior to first operation, and semiannually thereafter, each April and October.

Prior to first operation Semiannually: April & October
X

The 1/2-mile Swim & 6-mile Run Test

Swim 1/2 mile (880 yards) in a pool without stopping and with no flotation or propulsion aids (life-guard-protected pool-setting recommended; goggles recommended; no PFDs, wet suits, fins, mitts), 36-minute time limit.

Run 6 miles on a flat, unpaved road or trail without walking, 66-minute time limit.

Warning: This readiness test should not be attempted until your personal physician has signed off on it and you have arranged for the proper on-site support crew, including life guards and medics.

Contact leader for self-certification form, which must be sent in prior to first operation, and semiannually thereafter, each April and October.

Prior to first operation Semiannually: April & October
X
Criminal Background Check—must be spotless

Contact leader for instructions on how to get a criminal background check done.

Copy of e-mail confirming a criminal background check has been completed must be received by leader prior to first operation.

Prior to first operation N/A
X
X
NASAR Training & Certification

Contact leader for instructions how to purchase NASAR's Introduction to Search and Rescue (ISAR) textbook for this self-study course and how to go about taking the online test for NASAR's SARTECH III certification.

Copy of NASAR certification certificate must be received by leader within 3 months of first operation.

Within 3 months after first operation None
X
X
First-Aid Certification

The type/level of first-aid course (Community First Aid, Basic First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, etc.) will depend on what is available in your local area. Check with schools, colleges, universities, American Red Cross, American Heart Association, etc., your community.

Copy of first-aid certification certificate must be received by leader within 3 months of first operation.

Within 3 months after first operation As required by instructional institution
X
X
CPR Certification

The type/level of CPR course will depend on what is available in your local area. Check with schools, colleges, universities, American Red Cross, American Heart Association, etc., your community.

Copy of CPR certification certificate must be received by leader within 3 months of first operation.

Within 3 months after first operation As required by instructional institution
X
X
Liability Waiver

Contact leader for a copy of the MibSAR Team Volunteer Liability Waiver and Release form.

Original, signed copy of MibSAR Team Volunteer Liability Waiver and Release form must be received prior to first operation.

Prior to first operation

Annually:
January

X
X
Confidentiality Agreement

Contact leader for a copy of the MibSAR Team Volunteer Confidentiality Agreement form.

Original, signed copy of MibSAR Team Volunteer Confidentiality Agreement form must be received prior to first operation.

Prior to first operation Annually:
January
X
X
Age

Volunteers must be at least 21 years of age.

Before first operation N/A
X
X
Immigration Status Volunteers must be in the United States legally. Before each operation N/A
X
X
Alcohol Volunteers must be alcohol-free during all operations Before each operation N/A
X
X
Tobacco Volunteers must be nonsmokers Before each operation N/A
X
X
Drugs Volunteers must be drug free Before each operation N/A
X
X
Drivers License Volunteers must have a valid drivers license Before each operation N/A
X
X
Driving Record Volunteers must have a good driving record Before each operation N/A
X
X

In-pants-pocket survival kit items

 

  • Waterproof lifeboat matches in container attached to loss-prevention lanyard
  • Waterproof firestarters in container attached to loss-prevention lanyard
  • Magnesium firestarter attached to loss-prevention lanyard
  • Sturdy, lock-blade pocket knife attached to loss-prevention lanyard
  • Very-small, qood-quality backup micro-compass attached to loss-prevention lanyard
  • Loud, high-quality whistle attached to loss-prevention lanyard
  • Signal mirror attached to loss-prevention lanyard
  • Very-small, high-quality micro-flashlight attached to loss-prevention lanyard
  • Stout fixed-blade knife in belt-mounted drop sheath (must carry below rucksack waistbelt)

    Note: Volunteers must have these essential items on them 24/7, which means even when bivouacking. For maximum carrying comfort, distribute them among pockets on loose-fitting, multi-pocketed pants, making sure each respective lanyard is loop though a small loop hand-swen into each pocket

Before each operation N/A
X
X

All-weather
wilderness operations kit:

Items in both black & red represent standard, multi-day load.

Items in red represent gear to be pulled from standard multi-day load for shorter operation during multi-day op, with items in black being cached in a large stuff sack hoisted up in a tree, 10' from ground, 4' below limb, and 4' out from tree, to protect them from roving bears, wolves, and coyotes.

Gear and clothing colors: Since at least half of MibSAR's operations and investigations are criminal in nature—with many involving illegal drugs, weapons, foul play, homicide, and clandestine burial sites—and often require work in remote, seldom-traveled areas that poachers, marijuana growers, malcontents, and miscreants call home, all operational clothing and gear must be low-profile in appearance. Subdued colors such as brown, tan, gray, green, and black are acceptable colors; bright, attention-grabbing colors such red, yellow, orange, pink, and blue are not acceptable. Heavy camouflage should also be avoided as it creates its own set of problems in encounters with law-abiding civilians. When bright clothing is needed for line searches or work with traditional search-and-rescue teams, high-visibility vests, hats, and pack covers are donned.

 

Cotton clothing is prohibited.

  • Load carrying rig
    • Oversized rucksack
      • Lined with heavy-duty contractor-grade plastic bag
      • Use waterproof stuff sacks to organize gear
      • Waist-belt pouch for water bottle
      • Waist-belt pouch for snacks
      • Waist-belt pouch for map & land-nav gear
    • Waterproof rain cover for rucksack
  • Bivouac gear
    • Closed-cell foam sleeping pad
    • Bedroll, appropriate temperature rating sleeping bag
    • Bivouac sack
    • Lightweight, 10' by 10' silnylon tarp with rigging cordage attached & stakes
    • LED flashlight (hands-free headstrap recommended)
      • Spare battery
    • Candle
  • Land-navigation gear
    • Primary topographic quads for area of operation
    • Secondary backup quads for area of operation
    • County map for area of operation
    • High-quality base-plate-style compass (Sunnto, Silva, Brunton, etc.)
    • GPS (Global Positioning System) unit, preferably with detailed topographic map chip
      • Spare batteries
    • GMRS (General Mobile Radio System) FM UHF 462 MHz transceiver (Weather-resistent Midland GXT 1000s are recommended due to their proven long-range performance on MibSAR operations)
      • Spare batteries
    • Waterproof, write-in-the-rain pen
    • Pencil
    • Waterproof, write-in-the-rain paper
    • US Army Ranger pace-counting beads
    • Roamer plotter for UTM coordinate system (free from MibSAR)
  • First-aid kit
    • Elastic ankle wrap
    • Moleskin
    • Vaseline
    • Antiseptic cleansing pads
    • Antiseptic ointment
    • Band-Aids
    • Gauze pads
    • Roller gauze bandage
    • Waterproof first-aid tape
    • Pain relief medication
    • Anti-inflammatory medication
    • Cold & flu medications
    • Small tweezers
    • Small scissors
    • Latex gloves
    • Powerful, prescription-grade pain killers for long trips (see your Doc)
    • Broad-spectrum antibiotic for long trips (see your Doc)

      Note: check with your personal physician, dentist, and other trusted medical professional to determine what items—including prescription medications—you should stock your personal first-aid kit with, especially on long-range, remote operations.
  • Repair kit
    • 50 feet of small-diameter braided nylon cordage (lashing, repair, difficult [2-rope] bear hangs)
    • Small roll of duct tape
    • Sewing kit
  • Head gear
    • 1 very thin balaclava
    • 2 thick hats that can be worn together
    • 1 pair of sun glasses
    • 1 pair of protective eyewear for bushwhacking (very important)
    • Spare prescription glasses, if essential
    • 1 bandana (optional)
    • 1 Wide-brimmed sun/rain hat
  • Hand gear
    • 1 pair of mitten shells (cold weather)
    • 2 pair of mitten liners (cold weather)
  • Upper-body gear
    • 2 to 4 very thin polypro tops (long and short sleeve)
    • 1 breathable nylon wind-shirt or jacket
    • 2 1/4-inch thick micro-fiber-insulated or fleece jackets/hoodies
    • 1 hooded, synthetic-insulated parka in (cold weather)
    • 1 high-quality nylon rain parka
  • Lower-body gear
    • 1 pair of thin polypro undershorts
    • 1 or 2 pairs of thin polypro long underwear
    • 1 pair of thin nylon hiking/wind pants with zip-off legs
    • 1 pair of 1/4-inch thick micro-fiber-insulated or fleece pants (sidezips are very handy)
    • 1 pair of heavy synthetic-insulated overpants with sidezips (cold weather)
    • 1 pair of high-quality nylon rain pants (no vinyl)
  • Footwear
    • 1 pair of sturdy boots (insulated boots, with spare liners, in cold weather)
    • 2 pair of thick synthetic or wool socks
    • Liner socks (optional)
    • 1 pair of gaiters (optional, to seal boot-pantleg opening against mud, snow, and forest debris)
    • River-fording footwear (optional, if not wearing boots for same)
    • Snowshoes in winter
  • Hydration gear
    • 2 one-quart durable (Nalgene) water bottles
    • 1 two-quart water bladder
    • Water purification tablets
    • 1 spare bottle of purification tablets (even if using another purification technique)
  • Rations
    • Breakfast modules (one per day)
    • Snack modules (one per day)
    • Lunch modules (one per day)
    • Dinner modules (one per day)
    • Backup rations (one full day: breakfast, snack, lunch, & dinner)
  • Ration-heating gear
    • lightweight stove (NATO solid-fuel; compressed gas; white gas; repair kit if needed)
    • Adjustable-flame lighter on loss prevention lanyard (carry on person in winter to keep warm and operational)
    • Windscreen for stove
    • Fireproof base for stove
    • Pot holder (if needed)
    • Pot
    • Lid for pot
    • Spoon
    • Mug or cup
    • 50-foot food-hanging rope (use cheap, hard, 1/8-inch-diameter, slippery poly-rope for heavy loads)
  • Biting-insect gear
    • 1-ounce bottle of 100% DEET per week
    • Spare 1-ounce bottle of 100% DEET
    • 1 headnet
    • 1 spare headnet
    • Several anti-bug smudge coils
  • Hygiene gear
    • Toilet paper
    • Synthetic pack towel
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpowder
    • Toothpicks or dental floss
    • Handcleaner
  • Personal items
    • Personal medications
    • Driver's license
    • Passport or equivalent for Canadian operations
    • Personal emergency contact names & phone numbers
    • Credit cards
    • Cash and travelers checks
    • Medical, prescription, dental, and evacuation insurance cards
    • Sunscreen
    • Lipbalm with sunblock
    • Wrist chronograph
  • CSI/SAR gear
    • Digital camera
      • Spare batteries
      • Big memory card
    • 6-inch forensic-grade, evidence-photography ruler (free from MibSAR)
    • 1 roll of bright-colored flagging tape (free from MibSAR)
    • Indelible/permanent Sharpie-brand marker
    • Small metal measuring tape
    • Tracking stick (fresh cases only)
    • 12-inch-long breeze-direction scent string (fresh cases only)
Before each operation N/A
X
X

Specialized SAR gear

  • 5-gallons of potable water in vehicle
  • Lightweight water bladders to hump two-days worth of water, either from a vehicle or a distant stream or pond, if needed when a remote area of operation is bone dry
Before each operation N/A
X
X
Vehicle equipment
  • Extra car key on lanyard
  • Vehicle registration papers
  • Vehicle insurance papers
  • Locking gas cap (with extra key)
  • Road map (Michigan 1-800-292-2520; Canada 1-800-268-3736)
  • County map book for Michigan
  • Tire jack and lug nut wrench
  • Shovel (spade blade in summer & snow blade in winter)
  • Windshield scraper and snow brush (winter)
  • Nylon tow strap
  • Single-bit axe
  • Bow saw
  • Hi-lift bumper jack (optional)
  • Hand-operated winch (optional)
  • Pick axe (optional)
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire inflation system (optional)
  • Battery jump-pack power system (optional)
Before each operation N/A
X
X
Vehicle safety checks
  • Tire-pressure
  • Spare-tire pressure
  • Tire-tread wear
  • Wiper-blade condition
  • Wiper-fluid (front and rear)
  • Engine-oil level (use thinner weight in winter for easier starting)
  • Radiator-fluid level (check rating in winter)
  • Transmission-fluid level
  • Headlight operation
  • Taillight operation
  • Brakelight operation
  • Turn signal operation
  • Emergency signal operation
  • Battery condition (auto-parts stores will load-check for free; use heavy-duty battery in winter for easier starting)
Before each operation N/A
X
X

 

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In God's wilderness
lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted,
unredeemed wilderness.

 — John Muir, 1838-1914
Alaska Wilderness, 1890

If you've been able to read this Web page...
thank a Teacher;
If you've been able to read this Web page in English...
thank a Veteran.
—Author unknown

• Copyright notice •
Content Copyright © 1984 — 2012-03-07
by Michael A. Neiger

• All rights reserved •
No part of this Web page or this Web site protected by copyright law may be reproduced, transmitted, or used in any form—including graphic, electronic, Web, mechanical or other form—or by any means—including photocopying, recording, taping, Internet distribution, information storage retrieval system, or by other means—for any purpose, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages, without the prior, express, written permission of the author.

Comments? Suggestions?
Dead links? Inaccurate info?
Contact the WebMaster, Michael A. Neiger, at mneiger@hotmail.com

Web site URL: http://therucksack.tripod.com/MibSAR/MibSAR.htm

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