Bladen County Sheriff's Department
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By: Erin Smith

Members of law enforcement, fire service and emergency management crews all met at the Bladen County Law Enforcement Training Center at White Lake for a man tracking class.

Instructor Gary Turlington said when law enforcement and fire personnel receive a civil or amber alert this class gives them some experience with the terrain and the fundamentals to know what to do.

He added that experience has shown that when a person is suffering from a mental health issue they may not answer when searchers are calling their name and children are often taught not to come to a stranger. Turlington pointed out that when searching in the woods, law enforcement or fire fighters often don’t wear their uniforms that are readily recognizable to young children.

Turlington said that often a person who has a mental health issue or a young child will become frightened when they don’t recognize their surroundings and instead of making their presence known, they will instead hide from searchers and the helicopters.

Turlington said the class will teach officers and fire fighters the basic fundamentals of how to locate someone when they have wandered off or gotten lost in the woods.

When asked what benefits officers and fire fighters will have after completing the course, Turlington said, “It helps save time and helps save lives if someone is lost.”

Taking part in the class are members of law enforcement from Sampson, Scotland and Bladen counties, state troopers, state parks personnel, and fire and rescue as well as Bladen County Emergency Management personnel.

“The instructors are extremely well qualified,” said Turlington.

He added that Bladen County is an excellent place to teach tracking in that it has examples of all types of terrain one might encounter if they actually had to find a lost hunter or a child that has wondered away from a campsite.

Turlington added that the skills officers are learning are important skills that assist them as they serve the community.

“It could be a life-saving skill,” said Sgt. Barry Pait.

“We have FFA camps and boy scout camps,” said Turlington.

One of the skills the officers were learning is how to recognize objects in nature that don t belong such as candy wrappers to back packs, said Turlington.

He added that with the river and the game lands, there is an increased likelihood of someone becoming lost or disoriented in the woods.

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