Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Training, Teamwork, and Triathlons

^Alliteration is always cool, right? Anyways...

Week 2 at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has proved even further that I am in the right place. The scenery is still as stunning as the first time that I saw it, the staff continues to be welcoming and friendly, and I am excited that the rush of summer is just around the corner. Before visitation really picks up as school gets out and the Michigan weather gets warm enough for beach visits (hopefully soon), we have had many training opportunities in the park.
SLBE's UTV is a valuable resource for
Search and Rescues around the dunes.

My first training took place towards the end of Week 1, where I took radio training and then an online course to learn how to safely operate our UTV (Utility Task Vehicle). Week 2 began with new-employee training on Monday, which was followed by all-employee training on Tuesday. Sitting in a meeting for two days may not seem fun, but it was truly beneficial to hear from other divisions and get a better grasp on how the park operates as a whole. Next, Wildland Fire training...

After the meetings, I was able to attend a Wildland Fire Safety Refresher with fellow SLBE employees from all divisions. We were taught things such as recognizing risks and hazards, and then went outside for hands-on training. We each had to deploy and get into personal fire shelters with our feet positioned towards the fire (not real fire) in less than 30 seconds. We also discussed the different aspects of the fire engine, and concluded with a hose lay. All of this training has reinforced the idea that teamwork is necessary to succeed in all aspects of this job. The staff at SLBE have continuously showed me that they have a great sense of teamwork already established, and that was put to work before, during, and after the M22 challenge.
Before the M22 Challenge
Around here, they have many traditions. I missed the Asparagus Festival in the middle of May and I am eagerly awaiting the 91st annual Cherry Festival in the beginning of July. Another great tradition is the M22 Challenge, a run-bike-paddle event that Sleeping Bear Dunes hosts each year. 900 athletes participate in a 2.5 mile run, 17 mile bike ride, and 2.5 mile kayak paddle. With so many athletes and spectators in the middle of the park, it was important for everyone to be on the same page. This planning began months in advance, and thanks to everyone knowing their roles, great communication, and an organized incident command system, the event went extremely well.

The weather was absolutely perfect.
The M22 challenge was a spectacular event where so many people were able to use the natural resources that the park has to offer. Although waking up at 4 in the morning for a 5:30am meeting and standing in the hot sun directing traffic for 6 hours may not seem like the greatest time, it was extremely rewarding to be able to work as a well-oiled machine and have things run so smoothly. My supervisor, District Ranger Andy Blake, continually stresses how important operational leadership can be, and I saw that first hand. After the M22 challenge, we all had a meeting where Ranger Blake discussed what went well, what didn't go well, and asked us for different aspects that we should start, stop, and continue doing. Because of his leadership, the event will continue to improve. 

Thanks for reading, and be sure to stay tuned. 

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