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Hunter duo captures region’s first Navshield

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The prestigious Navshield is heading to the Hunter Valley for the first time in the event’s history, thanks to NSW Ambulance duo Gareth Chandler and Peter Watts.

Every year, Bush Search and Rescue NSW (BSAR) organises and hosts the Australian Emergency Services Wilderness Navigation Shield, or NavShield as it’s commonly known.

And, in 2022, personnel from VRA Rescue NSW, both regional and specialist squads; NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES); NSW Police, including Police Rescue; NSW Ambulance and Special Operations Team; NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS); Armed Forces; bushwalking clubs; and other emergency services, including rescue helicopters and medical teams; converged on Tarlo River National Park, about 20km north of Goulburn and south of the Wombeyan Caves.

Following a gruelling challenge, it was Mr Chandler, a member of the Rutherford rescue truck division, and Mr Watts, part of the Paramedic Immediate Care Unit based at Birmingham Gardens, who overcame their rivals to win the one-day title.

“We’re pretty pumped about it,” the latter said.

“We are the first rescue agency in the region to bring the Navshield to the Hunter Valley.

“Gareth and I got through minus-4-degree temperatures, hiked 29km over nine hours and found enough check points to secure the coveted shield.”

Peter Watts and Gareth Chandler at the Australian Emergency Services Wilderness Navigation Shield event.

The event is acknowledged as an important training source for the NSW emergency services.

And, Mr Watts knows how difficult it is to prevail.

“For years, Hunter rescue paramedics have been competing in the Navshield,” he said.

“But, without success until now.

“This is an emergency services event where all rescue agencies/emergency services – from NSW Police to FRNSW, NSW Ambulance to NSW SES, and more – compete against each other in a map and compass navigation competition.

“In 2022, NSW Ambulance Rescue fielded four teams, including Gareth and I, to practice their navigational skills.

“And, it’s not easy.

“No technology is able to be used in these events and they are normally placed in very remote national parks.

“So, that means we tested our bush and compass navigation abilities in an overnight setting through 100-square kilometres of wilderness terrain a few hours’ drive from Sydney.”

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