People join the SAR team for a variety of reasons. Some seek to give back to the community. Some hope to learn valuable new skills and gain job experience. Some just want to meet new people. For whatever reason our members join, it is their combined experience and commitment to the mission that makes the SAR program so successful.
The accomplishments and drive of the group as a whole is amazing. The average span of an individual SAR career is a little less then five years. There are many reasons why people leave the team. SAR is a difficult volunteer program that requires an extraordinary level of commitment from its members. It is part of the life cycle of the team that we have a very consistent rotation of members who come and go.
That being said, the majority of those who come through our ranks, whether they're here a year or twenty, bring strengths and abilities that continue to build and evolve a successful program. While I would love everyone to spend decades with the team it isn't always possible. And that's ok.
There are exceptions to the five-year rule. One veteran I would like to mention is longtime team member Paul Carlson. This year Paul reached the milestone of 30 years of service to the team. This is an amazing accomplishment. This is a career of service only matched by a few people in the team's history. Most full-time professional careers do not last as long.
Paul saw the team go from a small group of twenty in the early 1980's, to the the team of over two hundred it is today. Finally, life has caught up with Paul. After a long career with Chevron, he recently retired and took up fulltime residence at his vacation home up in Twain Harte in the Sierra foothills. For that reason, Paul decided to hang up his gaiters and trekking poles with Contra Costa Search and Rescue.
Paul was a very active member of the team during his tenure. My first memory of him was when I was a member of the Explorers. I did not know who he was, but at the time saw a very animated, committed team member. He was at all the searches, he helped at trainings, and was one of those early medical gurus who set the foundation for our focus on professional-level first-aid care. Paul also loved managing search operations, and was one of a few "go to" guys who could always be counted on to run a search.
Paul could never get enough of SAR. He held dual membership with Cal-ESAR, a State sponsored SAR team, and various levels of responsibility with CoCo SAR. At different times during his career, Paul was a squad leader, medical instructor, 4×4 member, wilderness resource member, reserve peace officer, team sergeant, and held several positions on the Command Staff. When the team evolved from a phone-tree callout system to a pager system, Paul wrote the original computer program used to page team members.
Paul took great pride in being prepared. He was one of those guys you could call anytime, and at a moment's notice, he would respond to an incident. He was so serious that I remember him showing me how he parked his truck backwards in his garage and left the doors open to shave off a few seconds of response time. Paul earned the occasional ribbing from fellow team members who suggested he also slept in his uniform.
Although Paul is leaving our team, he is going to continue his SAR service. He has applied to be a member of the Tuolomne County SAR team. I wish to personally thank Paul on behalf of the search and rescue team and the Office of the Sheriff for his lifetime of service to search and rescue.
Only a handful of people can make a 30-year career of SAR, but if every member had just a little of Paul's focus and commitment, no matter how long they served, it would have an incredible impact on the team's success.