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Alamogordo Search and Rescue seeks volunteers
Tara Melton, Alamogordo Daily News – 22 Jan. 16
One day seven years ago, James Hiller saw the Alamogordo Search and Rescue rappelling as part of their training and he immediately became interested in the group.
“I used to build towers for communication companies,” Hiller said. “I’ve always worked up in the air. I’ve just always been one of those guys with his hair on fire, hanging out on a rope all day.”
Hiller, currently section chief of plans, operations and an evaluator for Alamogordo Search and Rescue, said he likes the excitement and has always enjoyed helping people.
“I’m kind of a go-getter,” he said. “When I joined there was no one who was field certified and to lead teams you have to at least be field certified. I jumped in and became section chief for plans and operations, I’m semi-retired so I have the time to do things like that.”
Alamogordo Search and Rescue is a non-profit corporation staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers who are individuals dedicated to helping others. Alamogordo Search and Rescue is activated for missions by the New Mexico State Police, District 8 and encompass Otero and Lincoln counties when there’s help needed to find someone who is lost or when recovering a body.
“When people get out in the woods and get lost, the mind quits working,” Hiller said. “They’re out there in the dark without a flashlight and they remember every mountain lion and bear story they’ve ever heard and every mouse under the grass is that mountain lion or bear.”
Hiller said with the prominence of smartphones, it’s become easier to help find people in certain situations.
“The young people are very good at it and they’ll call you on their phone if they’re lost and they will bring up an app for GPS and it will give me their coordinates,” he said. “Once we have your coordinates, just be still and we’ll go get you. It’s something we didn’t used to have in the past.”
Understanding forward and back bearings
The first compass bearing we need to take at the lake is from our unknown location to our cabin on the far shore. The bearing we end up with represents the angle between a line from Magnetic North to our location, and a line from our location to the cabin. This bearing is a “forward bearing.”
But when we go to plot this bearing on our map, we can’t plot the angle from our current location since that is what we are trying to find. Instead we plot a bearing from the cabin, as if someone there took a bearing “looking BACK towards our location.” This would be called a “back bearing” and will be 180° different from our “forward bearing.”
How to determine a back bearing
One technique is to do the math. Add or subtract 180° from you forward bearing to get your back bearing. You want the result to fall between 0° and 360°, so if the forward bearing is less than 180°, add 180° to it, and if it’s greater than 180°, subtract 180°.
If you are bad with math in your head, the “200/20” trick might help you. When your bearing is less than 180°, add 200° and then subtract 20° (same as adding 180°). When your bearing is greater than 180°, subtract 200° and then add 20° (same as subtracting 180°).
There are also lots of tricks that avoid doing the arithmetic entirely…
Most sighting compasses show the back bearing in a smaller font size above or below the forward bearing.
When you are taking a bearing with a base plate compass, and you want a back bearing instead of a forward bearing, box the compass needle with the south end where the north end would usually be. The resulting bearing will be 180° different.
When you are plotting your bearing, start by plotting a short segment of the forward bearing. When you extend the line, extend it in the opposite direction.
Next get straight in your head, where you will be plotting the bearing from on the map, and whether you will be plotting a forward bearing or a back bearing. You will always be starting to plot your bearing from the known location and then extending your line towards the unknown location.
If you took the bearing from the known location, you will be plotting a forward bearing, starting at the known location.
If you took the bearing from the unknown location, you will be plotting a back bearing, starting at the known location.
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