UNO 2014 – 29 new Type II Academy graduates and the CoCoSAR 100

- by John Banuelos

“Give your all to meIMG_1096
I'll give my all to you”

These words come a John Legend song.  How do these words connect to the 2014 Type II Academy? Well, read on.

In a tradition that reaches back to the beginning of CoCoSAR there has always been an Unexpected Night Out or UNO. Many generations of CoCoSAR Team members have gone through their UNO. Everyone remembers and has a special tale to tell about their night out.

On October 18 and 19, for 36 plus hours 29 student were run through stations of SAR skill sets, did endless miles of hiking, conducted multiple mocks searches all through the night into the wee hours of the next day, caught a few hours of sleep, if at all, and then capped off the UNO experience with a final rescue scenario in the post dawn hours. All 29 students persevered. They had dirty faces with smiles. All felt the relief of success as we all ate our breakfast under the old oak tree.

The Class of 2014 gave their all to us. And we of the CoCoSAR One Hundred gave our all to them.

These 29 will merge into the ranks of the CoCoSAR Two Hundred as ground pounders. I hope they join the ranks of the CoCoSAR One Hundred in support of the next generation of students that will attend the next Academies and will go through their own UNO in 2015.

As to the CoCoSAR One Hundred, they represent the ongoing spirit of giving their all. It is with great pride that I present the list of names for the 2014 CoCoSAR One Hundred. There were 111 contributors to the success of this year’s Academies and UNO.

Apfel, Judith Hirata, Alan Perez, Edward
Banuelos, John Hirata, Tami Piercy, Dana
Bates, Tom Hirata, Tori Plam, Pierce
Blue, Diane Hoffman, Nancy Poindexter, Roger
Borquez, Leslie Hubbard, Laura Retta, Chris
Boyce, Michael Hubinger, John Riggs, Casey
Buluran, Kristl Hunter, Autumn Riggs, Micheal
Carmody, Laura Huntington, Ron Rodrigues, Itales
Clark, Jim Israel, Joshua Rogers-Engle, Natane
Clark, Kevin Jones, Paul Rogers, Todd
Clymer, Laury Kalan, Jon Rutherford, Pamela
Coelho, Chris Kavanagh, Don Schimek, Brad
Comly, Andy Kovar, Rick Sembrat, Mark
Corum, Jamie Kwan, Vincent Shargel, Matt
Cossu, David Lamb, Steve Shih, Larry
Coyne, Dan Lane, Dennis Soo, Cameron
Csepely, Andreas Langley, Claudia Stein, Roger
Cummings, Michael Lynch, Darren Stinson, Ralf
Cunningham, Katelynn Mapel, Brian Sutter, John
Curran, Dawn Mathews, Alan Thomas, Lauren
Dees, Jeremiah McGraw, Lisa Tiernan, Jeff
Dodson, Patrick McMillan, Michael Tseung, Kerrie
Eichinger, Walter Medearis, Robert Venturino, John
Farasati, Reza Miller, Sheryl Volga, Michelle
Field, Cynthia Molascon, Ed Walker, Patrick
Filippoff, Steven Moschetti, Frank Walley, Bryan
Fok, Eric Moss, Paul Walton, Claire
Fong, Larry Murphy, Tim Webber, Steve
Franks, Randy Murray, Paul West, Paul
Garcia, Linda Murray, Scott White, Howard
Gaughen, Kathy Murray, Wilma Whiting, Mark
Gay, Jim Najarian, Rick Wilfer, Mark
Giberti, Kevin Neidhardt, Richard Witul, Janice
Gore, Natalie Nichols, Chris Wright, Jennifer
Harrison, Robert Novak, Phil Yee, Laishan
He, Henry Pangilinan, Luigi Young, Chris
Healy, Paul Peabody, Jack Zensius, Natalie

A Day in the Life of a Type 1 Rookie

By Paul Healypaul healy

I have been on the CoCo SAR team since 2010, but didn’t become a Type 1 member until this August.

Below are some Type 1 rookie musings from the second Type 1 search I attended, which was on October 5. With me were John Banuelos, Natalie Zensius, Chris Coelho and Mark Whiting.

(Some sanitized four-letter words here replace the ones actually in my head.)

1930 on Sunday: Our company has finally gone and now it’s time for some recliner and TV-watching. I’m exhausted; I feel too old for three-day weekends with the boys. Ten minutes later, my cell phone goes off and I see “000 000 0000” on the screen. Oh, crap!

The remote voice tells me: “15-year-old hunter missing in Mendocino County, due back at 1000.

CP at 0900 Grizzly Flats Hwy 162 and M-1. Type 1 for yes, 2 for no.”

Hmm, all right, what’s on the agenda for tomorrow? My boss may be pissed, but my work can wait. I need to be at OES, ready to leave at 0300; need to go through my 24-hour pack and pull and prep for 72. Damn, I need to get to bed.

0200: The alarm goes off.

0255: I arrive at OES.

Oh crap!  I’m late; they are packed and ready; 0300 means leave not meet.

0310: We leave OES. It’s a six-hour ride and I’m wondering where we’re going. Coehlo? Never heard of it.

0700:  The sun is rising over the valley, 20 miles inland from Hwy 101 and we have 17 more miles on this gravel ridge road to the top.

0830: After a scary journey, we reach our destination at CP.

0835: Operations is ready for us with our assignments.

Let’s get moving!

0845: Briefing. We’re told the young man was to be hunting in this area. The place last seen (PLS) is shown to us on the map. We get his picture; the kid is a TV “Survivalist” fan and we’re told to expect him to travel down a drainage to the river. Our assignment is to search the Thatcher Creek drainage as far as possible, returning at 1600. One of our team was to work with the CARDA handler up stream while the rest of us headed down stream. Our best route to our search area is to travel on fire roads to meet up with ATVs for further travel.

We get our maps and are sent off with a “Good luck.”

0945: We call CP as we get stopped–the fire road we’ve been traveling on is no longer a road. There are four concrete/metal barriers across a washed-out trail.

0950: We communicate with the ATV team via radio to let them know our position in relationship to theirs.

0955: CP tells us that attempts to come pick us up by ATV will not work as they have barriers at their end, too.

1010: CP tells us to meet the helicopter at Grizzly Camp for transport.

1020: We arrive at Grizzly Flat and look for parking.

Yikes is that the family? Can’t park here … how about along the road over there?

1100: We board the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s helicopter.

Damn nice ride, what a view. Hope all the pot growers don’t think we are searching for them and start shooting.

1115: We start our search assignment. Have some snacks. Orient map; start tracks.

Damn, comms won’t work in this part of canyon.

“Let’s go. Paul you got right, Natalie center, I’ll get the left,” Chris says.

1125: Oh crap, was that a print I just stepped on? Good, here is another one … could these be his?

“Chris, Nat, check this out. Let’s get Baneulos before he heads upstream. There are more down here.” CP wants us to stay with the original plan, but keep aware of more prints if they continue in our search area.

1338: We hear the news: Subject found, all teams return to CP; we make our way back to the landing zone to await our helicopter ride out.

1415: Full barbecue, smiles all around.

1436: Getting ready to head home when we see a couple of vans ahead. The people inside are all waving and smiling.

Of course, it must be the family. That’s why we do this.

2046: Back at OES. Clean up and put all the gear away. Sign out and in the car; home in 25…

Class of 2014

By John BanuelosIMG_0195

31 new names will be added to the roster of CoCoSAR.
Every year, CoCoSAR garners the attention of volunteers who wish to contribute to their community. And every September, CoCoSAR conducts a Type 3 Academy to add to the ranks of the “200,” the number of volunteers maintained as a search force. On September 2, 31 individuals (24 adults with seven Cadets) started their introduction to search and rescue.

Each member gave up aspects of his/her life to attend 10 SAR Academy nights, plus gave up one full weekend to be trained in Urban Search and Rescue Type 4 tactics and hiked miles as part of a series of navigation exercises. None complained, all stayed on task, and throughout the entire process they tried to absorb every ounce of information that was offered. On October 6, they will attend one last night and will leave as full Type 3 members of CoCoSAR.

But wait! They are not done. On October 7, the Type 2 Academy will begin. Twenty-nine of the 31 new members will be there. We start with the Type 2 fitness hike and will end with the Unexpected Night Out (UNO) on October 19. Special note: Once again, the “CoCoSAR 100” has rallied.

The term “CoCoSAR 100” refers to those members that assist the Academy staff with the Type 3 and 2 Academy events.
Since the inception of the term, the “100” has never disappointed. To date, 88 individual members have instructed, proctored, coached, or have done any task needed to assist at an Academy night or weekend event. The call goes out and the “100” shows up in force.

A few remarkable members have shown up at every event. They did so because they wished to help. On average, each of these 88 members have assisted at least three times over the course of the Type 3 Academy. As we progress on through UNO, the final number will continue to grow. And as before, 100-plus members will have stood the watch over the next generation of CoCoSAR members.

Servio in comitatu heroes
I serve in the company of heroes.

Slow and Steady

patrick walkerBy Patrick Walker

Early on a misty June morning in Redwood Regional Park, in the hills between Oakland and Moraga, my dad and I were running ahead of the pack on a 20-mile run with my Boy Scout troop. This annual run helps us train for a summer High Sierra backpacking trek.

We were about 12 miles along and passing through a grove of ancient redwoods, quiet and still in the fog, when I noticed in the distance someone hunched on the side of the trail. It didn’t look right.

As I drew closer, I saw a person sitting with legs crossed, his head bowed and hidden inside a cinched hoodie. My SAR instincts and training immediately took over. I stopped a few feet away and asked him if he was OK. He did not respond. I spoke louder and authoritatively. “Sir, are you okay?”  He shook his head.

I asked him to remove his hoodie so I could see him and with slow, deliberate movements he obeyed my request. He was a Caucasian male in his mid-20s, unshaven and bewildered.

 “Can you talk?” I asked. He responded with a scarcely audible, “I think so.”

“Are you hurting?”

“I’m cold. Very cold.”

I asked how long he had been there. He said he came to the park the night before to “clear his head,” became disoriented when it grew dark and lost his way. He wandered in the night and eventually gave up trying to find his way back to his car and eventually found a place to sit down. He had endured a very cold and lonely night and was shivering, hungry, cramping up and confused.

I told him I have had medical training and could help him. For the first time, he looked up and offered a slight smile.

I asked if anyone would have reported him missing. With a touch of melancholy he said, “No one is expecting me back except my boss.”

I asked him to stand up. He was cold and stiff.

A couple of miles away was a Cub Scout camp where I knew they had fire, food and warmth.

“Can you walk?”

“I can try.”

Slowly, we began our trek. After a while, we passed members of my Boy Scout troop running along the path. They were surprised to see me going the opposite way. I told them that I was taking a break from the run to help someone. When I encountered the leader of the troop, he said, “Geez, Patrick, you find lost people even when you’re not looking for them!”

Our journey was painstakingly slow as he clearly was not well physically and maybe mentally. I was glad my dad was with me because I’m not sure I would have been comfortable alone with him. I suspected drugs or alcohol may have been an issue and he could have been suicidal.

As we walked slowly beneath the redwoods, he spoke. He said he felt lucky that we found him, and he said he appreciated our helping him. He asked my name and said his was Jeremy (name changed for privacy).

A half-hour later we made it to the Cub Scout camp. The troop had a fire blazing, hot chocolate and hot food, and the Scouts were generous in sharing it with Jeremy. I left him there with my dad, and then ran several miles further on to where a ranger lived. After explaining the circumstances and Jeremy’s current status, the ranger said he would take over and transport him to medical treatment.

I returned to the camp and Jeremy was seated by the campfire with a cup of hot chocolate, now warmed up, even smiling. We said our goodbyes and I rejoined the 20-mile run.

I was now in last place instead of first, but I knew that what I was able to do for a fellow human being – thanks to my training and experience on COCOSAR – was far more important than winning a race.

The 2014 Type III Academy

It is that time of the year where the OES shines with bright and unblemished orange t-shirts proudly stating, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue. 31 students make up the Class of 2014, 24 adults and 7 cadets. And like those that came before them the cycle of SAR education begins again: Navigation, knots, first aid, search tactics, etc. After two weeks these students reinforce their commitment to reach Type III status at each new Academy session. Type II status is certainly already on their minds.

On the Type III hike these 31 students gained their first feel of a 20 lb. pack, a hike covering street and rough terrain, and a mission to find clues. But they were not alone. Our CoCoSAR 100 (Team members that volunteer to be of service to the Academy) were there. 41 Team veterans attended the Type III hike. Every one of them was there to support these 31 students. 

To date 69 Team members have added their names to this year’s roll of the 2014 CoCoSAR 100. Thank you one and all

John P Banuelos
Academy SAR Sergeant
Servio in comitatu heroes
I serve in the company of heroes.

A Great Result

- Article from

Luba Lusherovich, 77, was found in the Norris Canyon area after 185 search and rescue personnel from nine counties converged on San Ramon to help find her.
Lusherovich walked away from her family's home near Bollinger Canyon Road and Marsh Drive, and efforts to find her grew more urgent as the days passed.

Kelsey Lusherovich, Luba Lusherovich's granddaughter-in-law, said the family was notified that the elderly relative had been found and that she was taken to a hospital to be evaluated but is expected to be OK. The younger woman said the older woman was conscious and talking, but dehydrated.

"I'm ecstatic; frankly, this is a miracle," she said. "She had no food, no money, no water … I don't know how much more miraculous it could get."

San Ramon police Sgt. Hollis Tong said she was found near a creek on Norris Canyon Road. Search and rescue dogs from the California Rescue Dogs Association first found a shoe, then a piece of clothing.

The handlers notified the command post at 2:15 p.m. that the dogs had picked up her scent and followed it to a house, where they found her, conscious and smiling, Tong said.

It was Ammo's first find, said handler Sonya Roth of her yellow Labrador retriever. "I was so excited I was shaking when we found her," Roth said. "That thrill … that's why we do this. Ammo may have saved her life."

Search-and-rescue crews from Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, Marin, Sonoma, Solano, San Mateo, Napa and Sacramento counties concentrated their search Saturday near the hilly area of Norris Canyon Road, near Castro Valley, and near the family home, Tong said.

There had been concerns that Lusherovich, a friendly European immigrant who once helped to teach kindergartners in Walnut Creek and Pleasanton, may have left the area, even though she left home without money. She also was without her medications, Tong said.

A police officer saw her on Norris Canyon Road as it heads toward Castro Valley around 2 p.m. Wednesday, but police had not yet been notified that Lusherovich was missing.

Police grew more worried as the days ticked by without finding her. More than 100 civilian volunteers came out Saturday to help search. "Everyone from all walks of life came out to find Luba," Tong said. "Time was of the essence."

2014 Tracking Academy Update (Or, How to Tell If a Subject Is Near)


By John Banuelos

The 2014 Tracking Academy has added 11 new members to the ranks of Contra Costa Search and Rescue searchers who are considered track aware/trackers. This brings the total number of current SAR members who have passed the Tracking Academy since 2006 to 58 (15 from 2006 to 2009; 44 from 2011 to 2014). Seventeen are on the MRG and 20 are presently on the Hasty squad.  

Please congratulate the newest members when you see them:

1.    Boyce, Michael
2.    Field, Cynthia
3.    Garcia, Linda
4.    Levenson, Kathryn
5.    Rodrigues, Itales
6.    Rutherford, Pamela
7.    Sutter, John
8.    Tseung, Kerrie
9.    Walton, Claire
10. Wilson, Steven
11. Witul, Janice

Tracking Academy Class of 2014 – A Success Story

You never know when the skill of tracking can be of value. Janice Witul arrived late for a July 16 tracking training held at Shell Ridge. While the end of Marshall Drive is an oft-used tracking locale, the actual training site had not been announced. Our location was hidden away by the ridge itself, a good distance from the entrance, and conducted at a location we had never used before.

Janice, however, was resourceful and apparently well trained. She knew my shoe print by sight. She proceeded to cut for sign on the possible trail paths and found my tracks. She followed my prints on terrain that did not take sign well, plus they had been trampled by a host of runners, hikers and dogs.

She found us. Her first words were, “ I tracked John’s shoe print.” Points go to Janice for her excellent memory and the find. It seems Corporal Leslie Borquez’s demanding training program has shown a dividend.

Tracking means you can always be found. Ask Janice.

Semper Terra-
Inveni, Persequere, Exsequere!

Always the earth 
Find! Pursue! Follow to the end!

Notes From a Newbie (Or: Rookiedom Rocks)

By Wilma Murray

wilma murray

Four years ago this October I was a little shell-shocked. I had just come through the Type 3 Academy and was still reeling from the experience. So much input, so little time (and, as it happens, so little brain space to accommodate it all).

When the dust settled, I sat down and wrote about the experience. Below is what I wrote (edited somewhat for clarity). When I came upon it I thought it might be a good time to share it as a kind of “here’s what you’re in for” tale for the new candidates, with a dose of encouragement for what lies ahead. 

The last evening of the Type 3 Academy has ended and I am stunned not to have heard “Who let you in?” even once. (I’m still thinking it was an unspoken query, but nobody was impolite enough to voice it.)

As it happened, the Academy was not how I thought it would be. And, that’s a good thing.

Pumped up by my apparently overinflated sense of adequacy, I charged into this task with an I-can-do-anything attitude, only to find that boastful bubble burst from th

e get-go. Looking around me after that first session, I thought, Who are all these people and why do they already seem to know so much?

Four weeks later (eight night classes, a night of service, plus two full weekend days, not to mention endless hours of shopping for all the “right stuff” – but who’s counting?), I stand ready and hopefully able to receive my badge and uniform. It has been one wild ride.

Through it all, the emotions ran the gamut. At one end was terrified, insecure, reluctant, overwhelmed and exhausted. On the other lay motivated, fascinated, excited, exuberant and proud.

And wow, have I learned some things. A lot of somethings, in fact.

Prior to the academy, the only orienteering I ever did was from one end of the soccer pitch to the other, and not always in the right direction (own goal, anyone?). Now I know how to direct myself north. Progress!

I also discovered what not to do. For instance, it’s not smart to borrow a school backpack, throw two 10-pound bars off a weight machine into the bottom, and attempt a two-mile hike less than three months after a partial knee replacement. Thank God for Epsom salts and patient proctors.

But, there was so much more learning going on, and I’m not just talking about compasses and first aid and cribbing and interviewing and tracking, et al … I’m talking about life lessons. 

Such as:

•           There actually ARE dumb questions, but you have to ask them anyway. If you don’t, then you won’t know the answer and then you’ll seem even less int

elligent. For example, I didn’t know what UNO stood for. If I hadn’t asked that “dumb” question, inevitably someone would have asked me what UNO meant, and I would have had to reply, “Er, well, YOU KNOW.”

•           You can have a lot of chiefs, but every chief needs to know when to step down from his/her chiefdom for the good of the whole. The instinct – if not the capability – of leadership is what ostensibly got us into SAR. We come in confident that we can do this and sure we are bringing something valuable to the table, only to learn that we won’t always get to use our particular skill sets in the particular way we choose to use them. Not only that, we may (horrors) have to listen to and submit to someone else’s authority. I’ve had to set aside my Boss of the World designation on many occasions during the Academy and I see that I will have to continue to do so for the benefit of all. Surprisingly, I can accept this.

•           You may start out feeling dim, but practice, practice, practice and amazingly, you start feeling brighter. It’s hard to be a “grownup” and not have all the answers. It’s even harder to be and feel more than twice as old, yet less than half as capable as fellow SAR members in their 20s – or teens. But I learned that everyone has to start somewhere, even us old folk, and now is as good a time as any. Which leads me to …

•           It’s okay not to know it all. The reason we have teams in SAR is because nobody can know it all – or do it all, for that matter. You bring what you bring and everyone else brings the rest, and it all, somehow, works.

            So, I’m bringing what I bring with all I’ve got and looking forward to experiencing what everyone else will be bringing, too. 

I joined this team hoping to find a way to be heroic. I came to the right place – there are heroic role models everywhere I turn. I’m excited to be their teammate.

            And now, I eagerly await the first callout.

            As Banuelos would say, “Bring it on!”

MRG Quarterly Meeting

DSCF0243The Mountain Rescue Group (MRG) quarterly meetings generally go off without a hitch, but the most recently planned meeting was put off twice. The first delay was for a call out to El Dorado County; the second time it was postponed because of an Antioch search. Looks like the third time’s the charm as the meeting was finally held July 29.

The session began with mission recaps and discussion about the upcoming MRG Type 1 training Aug. 1 through 3.

The meeting also featured team tech specialist David Cossu, who described and demonstrated the mobile command field electronics. We tested the plotter, satellite phone, wireless networks for remote field operations and lots of other resources.

One new piece of equipment stole the show: the BGAN portable broadband Internet and phone. This game-changing piece of equipment allows for Internet access and phone calls in places where there is no cell service.

It was a hands-on couple of hours. After several months of planning and pulling equipment together, our mobile field electronics are finally ready to be field-tested.

The MRG meetings are open to all CoCoSAR team members, not just Type 1. Contact Chris Coelho for information about MRG.