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Herald Sun 13 September 2015.

MORE people have been on the international space station than have qualified to work for Victoria Police’s search and rescue squad.

And of those 173 successful officers, just 78 have been given a fulltime position since the squad was formed 58 years ago.

It’s an elite commando style unit and only the very best need apply.

More than 100 officers expressed an interest in joining the 20-person squad when a rare selection process began in March last year.

At its conclusion, in June this year, six were still standing. Just.

 An officer practises rock climbing at Mt Arapiles in western Victoria.
An officer practises rock climbing at Mt Arapiles in western Victoria.

“It’s harder to get into the squad than be Chief Commissioner,” one of the recruits joked.

Even getting through the training doesn’t guarantee a place in Search and Rescue.

It’s an average five-year wait for a position to come up – some have waited a decade – and even if you do get in, it’s another five years of on the job training to become a competent operative.

But those who do get in earn skills that even James Bond would envy.

The wannabe recruits are put through the longest training course in Victoria Police, 14 weeks.

“We basically push them to the point of physical exhaustion and then set them difficult mental challenges so we can see their true person, their real personality,” Senior Sgt Barry Gibson said.

“Ultimately, any person we allow in the squad, we need to be 100 per cent happy with our life in their hands – we need to have confidence that they will be there for me.

“You can go on a job and not come back for a week – you have to be prepared for anything and everything,”

But there’s an average wait of five years to get into the squad because of job satisfaction and no one wanting to leave.

“The hardest job in Victoria Police is on the van – we know we have one of the best jobs in the force,” Sen-Constable Nicole Bath, the only female in the squad, said.

Read the full article here.


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