The Code 3, Beginning My Journey as a 1st Responder

The Code 3, Beginning My Journey as a 1st Responder

by Spyder Thompson

There is an unsung warrior class right here amongst us. They answer the call of duty at the worst possible times, traveling to the worst possible places, quite often during the worst weather that mother nature can muster. They are the ones that run towards the columns of smoke and disaster, are ushered through road blocks to go do battle with the dragons of accidents, attacks, and natural disasters. All “so that others may live,” and while these warriors do wear uniforms, they are not multi-cam. There are no holidays dinners, birthday parties of loved ones, or Christmas mornings that are off duty. Many of them are not paid for their service, yet they put their lives on the line every time they are called out.

They are the men and women of the EMS (Emergency Medical Services,) SAR (Search and Rescue,) Firefighters (both structural and wild-land,) and Police. They are America’s first responder communities.

I, at one time, came from the mindset that all government employees were to be looked at with suspicion and mistrust. That was before I joined the ranks of the 1st responders. But now, I have knowledge from direct experience, and it has dramatically changed my view of the men and women who serve these agencies. That’s not to say that there are not bad people who are members of these communities, it just means that we must look at the greater picture and recognize them as the bad apples that they are. That, and we must be diligent in calling out the bad apples and hold them to account for their actions.

My journey started a couple of years back when I was working as a writer for a political website. In my work, I had come across Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers, after he had just launched his CPT (Community Preparedness Teams) initiative. This, I thought, was a great idea. I joined my local CPT and began training regularly with them.   The Oath Keepers national call to action and official guidance on CPT urges them to join their local first responder community and integrate with it.  This, I think, is crucial and there are CPT teams across the country that do this very well and those where it really needs to be focused on.

The original purpose and intent of the CPT program is to prepare the community, not just the teams. This is the driving concept that each CPT team across the country needs to keep in the forefront of their training and activities. If they (the CPT team) do not keep this as part of the mission it can cause problems at the local level. If there has been not enough, or no contact with the existing first responder teams before an event happens it can, for all intense purposes, cause the 1st responder community to look at CPT with suspicion and possibly worse – believe the erroneous message of the main stream media that CPT and the Oath Keepers are “anti-government.” If this were the case, then when a large-scale incident were to happen, there would not be the trust and rapport needed to call on them for assistance. How could we fix this problem? By taking our existing skill sets and eagerness to learn and join the existing first responder communities.

Living in the mountains of the west, I thought that joining my local Search and Rescue team might be a good start. It would further the skills I already had in land navigation, communications, wilderness survival, and medical care, all while helping me to get into better shape, which at the time I was in desperate need of. The process was pretty straight forward, I found their website and submitted an online application. Within a month, I was contacted by the team’s president and an interview was set up for after the next monthly meeting of the membership. During the interview, they asked about my past experience and what my motivation was for wanting to join the team. Really, for me, my main motivation was to give back to my local community in a tangible way. I remember thinking that if one of my three daughters was cold, hurt, alone, and lost in the wilderness, what kind of person would I want to be out there searching for her and in the end the answer to that question was someone like me.

It was in the next month, I was made a probationary member of the team. I needed to get my CPR license updated and also needed to take and pass the SAR Tech 1 certification through NASAR (The National Association for Search and Rescue.) NASAR was founded in 1972 for the training of search and rescue, disaster relief, emergency medicine, and awareness education. NASAR is interested in search and rescue as a humanitarian mission. They also provide a national standard for training and skills. Once I accomplished these, I was able to be called out for missions.

I really cannot believe that more people are not interested in being a part of their local SAR team. During the first year of training, I was able to train with and become competent in several areas that are incredibly exciting. Rappelling, 4×4 riding, snowmobiles/snow cats, and boats are just a few of the types of experiences you will get to have. All this while building team dynamics and really getting a sense that you are really helping people on some of the worst days of their lives.

After being a member of the SAR team for about a year, I went on to join the local ambulance service. This, I really kind of fell into. I had heard from a fellow member of the CPT team that the ambulance service was having their 24-hour refresher course once a week and that it was free and open to the public. I began attending their trainings, hoping just to get some emergency medical training that would be of use in my SAR callouts. I found that I had a keen interest in Emergency Medicine and within in 2 months of training I began driving for the ambulance service. A month later I was working on attaining my own EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) license. That summer I was brought on to the service as a full member. That would be a very busy summer for me as I also applied for, and was accepted to be a wildland fire fighter (as a fire-line qualified EMT). A week after passing my NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians,) I was living out of a tent on an isolated mountain side going through the USFS (United States Forest Service) Guard School. This is the training one must go through to become a type 2 wildland fire fighter. That summer would prove to be one of the most intense fire seasons in history and I would travel to 6 different fires.

I now have an immense feeling of pride in serving and giving back what I can to my community. I have an ever-evolving skill set that is continuously being added to and I am in the best shape of my life!

In this new series of articles “Code 3”, I will be discussing different aspects of the first responder communities and what it is like to live the life of a first responder. Additionally, I will also be putting out gear reviews, going over new tools and tech that can help in the fight “so that others may live.”


If you believe in the mission of Oath Keepers, to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, please make a donation to support our work.  
You can donate HERE.




About Author

Spyder Thompson

Spyder is currently a 1st responder the Rocky Mountain regions. He is currently the training officer and on the board of directors for his local Search and Rescue Team. Spyder has his NREMT and volunteers for his local EMS Service and He also is a type 2 wild-land Firefighter and spends his summers working across the country as a fire line qualified EMT battling some of this nation’s largest forest fires. Spyder has a weekly column “Code 3” where he writes about issues related to the 1st responder community and also does a gear review article every week. Feel free to email him about any articles or to request a review of a product .


  1. Robert 7 March, 2018, 17:20

    10 yrs. on the LLFD/Ambulance. First took EMT in the mid 70’s. Have been in burning buildings, and scraped people off the road. Had some good times, most not so good. Remembering things can really suck. Careful not to let it burn you out. If counseling is offered, not a bad idea. Thank you for picking up the torch brother, we ARE needed out there. Take care……..

    Reply this comment
    • Spyder Thompson Author 12 March, 2018, 11:08

      Yes PTSD and burn out are very real and have a significant impact on the various 1st responder communities. I personally have seen it have a significant effect on my own teams where we have lost great team members due to burn out and have also seen just how hard it can be to get the insurance agencies to cover counseling for these type of conditions. It is near impossible to get help in a timely manner (if at all) and this is when we are at an all time high for suicides amongst first responders. We must find better answers to these issues.


      Reply this comment
  2. recon29 7 March, 2018, 18:14

    Hi Spyder. There is another group that’s really unknown. I am a member of this group. It’s the Red Cross Disaster Action Teams. IT’s made up of highly trained volunteers. We respond to all fires and other emergencies. When responding to fire rescue it may be with just water, Gatorade, coffee and snacks for them. Other times it includes meals when they are going to be OTJ for extended periods. On top of this is the support to the victims as needed. The bigger the event the more teams that are dispatched. Depending on the event shelters may need to be opened These highly trained members are separate from the other volunteers who would come after the event. I’m pretty sure with the positions you’ve held that you’ve had contact with them. Thank you for what you do. Great article

    Reply this comment
    • Spyder Thompson Author 12 March, 2018, 11:10

      Absolutely! I have a long time friend and mentor who does disaster relief for Red Cross out of Colorado. He is former law enforcement and he is still doing hero’s work. The Red Cross has gotten an awful rap lately and while the leadership may make some bad decisions at times (with any agency) we must keep in mind that those actually in the trenches are always there for the right reasons!

      Reply this comment
  3. Steve 7 March, 2018, 20:38

    Welcome to the world of Volunteer 1st Responders! My “career” began in 1976 in Lawton, Oklahoma, chasing storms for the Civil Defense, and teaching First Aid and CPR for the Red Cross. I was in SAR in New Mexico from 1981 til 1993, finding downed-aircraft and doing SAR Communications, both for a SAR Team and CAP. I resumed my “career” in 2001 by joining both the Coast Guard Auxiliary and a Volunteer Fire Department. I finally”retired” from the Fire Department at the end of 2012. Even though I can’t do the physical work anymore, I can still teach the next generation.

    We need more capable Volunteers to step up to the plate, because the “pros” can’t do it all.

    Reply this comment
  4. TC 7 March, 2018, 20:50

    Robert you have it right. Some good runs and way too many bad ones. I was one of six volunteer NREMT-Ps back home for over 10 years. 600-700 calls per year. Probably half were ALS. My last run was 20 years ago but I still volunteer with the State Health Dept. Disaster Response Team.

    Anyone who has been “in the trenches” for any length of time will tell you that unfortunately it is the bad ones that are clearly remembered, even after many years of being away from it. However, I can say that my tenure as a Paramedic was very rewarding in that we did have a lot of successes too.

    Great advice about not getting burned out and taking counseling when offered.

    I have the utmost respect for all first responders who care for and help the citizens of their communities.

    Be safe out there.

    Reply this comment
  5. Tucson Rick Anderson 8 March, 2018, 08:05

    You are to be commended for your varied and deep involvement in the various 1st Responder roles you participate in. Very impressive indeed. Some of us are just a little long in the tooth (I’m 70 now) to be accepted into any of they various roles you mention. We can, and do participate in any community groups who will have us, as volunteers for support duties, etc. Your article mentions one area that definitely needs more awareness, and that is the issue of trust between the public and 1st reponders. As an example, I provide the following article regarding the entire force of oath-breaking police officers in Seattle, Wash on the LEFT coast:

    “Seattle Police Begin NAZI STYLE Gun Confiscation No Laws Broken No Warrant No Charges
    Mac Slavo March 6th, 2018

    A man in Seattle has had his gun confiscated by police after breaking no laws. The police took his gun without a warrant and without pressing any charges. Tyranny has officially taken hold on American soil.
    This sets a precedent that government can now forcefully take guns away from an individual without a crime being committed or an arrest being made and without a warrant. In the name of fear and political exploitation of anti-gun rhetoric, a citizen’s Second Amendment rights have been ripped away from him by the government.
    The new “red flag” law, which has taken hold in other states already, allows the courts and law enforcement to take away guns from individuals they deem are dangerous and they’ve just begun the confiscation. A man living in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, Washington became the first individual in the state to have his firearm confiscated without any formal arrest or charges. The man was not identified by authorities.
    Neighbors complained that the man had been “staring” at people through storefront windows while wearing a holstered firearm. He was not brandishing his weapon by any account, and open carrying is legal in the area, so he was abiding by the law. Other residents also complained that the man’s open carrying made them feel “uncomfortable” and “unsafe.”
    “He was roaming the hallways with a .25 caliber automatic,” said Tony Montana, a man who lives in the same apartment complex as the gun owner and a person without any reasonable gun knowledge. Handguns are semi-automatic.
    These lousy complaints from neighbors allowed police to use the newly passed state law to confiscate the man’s firearm because the man apparently stared at others. Maybe there’s a ban on staring at others in Washington we are unaware of. Under the extreme risk protection orders — also referred to as “erpos” or “red flag laws” — police (government officials) are now allowed to violate a person’s Second and Fourth Amendment rights (which are basic fundamental human rights) and take their legally acquired personal property if they are tattled on by offended liberals.
    Tyranny has now taken hold on American soil.”

    With police willing to ignore and violate our Constitutional rights in such a manner as described above, the issue of trust will forever be at the forefront of our concerns.

    Reply this comment
    • WGP 8 March, 2018, 12:27

      California, Washington, Oregon, Indiana, and Connecticut have passed the “red flag” law, and Texas has a similar modification. In Washington it states “A person who poses a significant
      danger of causing personal injury to self or others in the near future by having firearms. Factors that demonstrate such a risk can include violent behavior, threats of self-harm, dangerous mental health crisis, and abuse of drugs or alcohol. The person who is alleged to be dangerous is called the respondent.”
      1. Persons related by blood, marriage, or
      2. Dating partners
      3. Persons who have a child in common
      4. Persons who reside or have resided
      with the respondent within the past year
      5. Domestic partners
      6. Persons who have a biological or legal
      parent-child relationship, including
      stepparents and stepchildren, and
      grandparents and grandchildren
      7. A person who is acting or has acted as
      the respondent’s legal guardian.

      Of course no mention of a general complaint can trigger one to lose their weapons.

      And as usual there is no outcry, no rage and no consequences for those who are responsible for unconstitutional acts against We the People; just accolades and promotions.

      Would be nice if the constitutional LEOs would step up to the plate; they are the front line to stop all the corruption and tyranny. They need to get very public, put their jobs and life on the line to defend the constitution, just as we vets have. No more bloviating how good they are and verbally defending their virtues. Maybe some of the younger vets need to join police/sheriff departs simply to expose the worst. Record everything.

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