The talent and dedication that this team exhibits on a daily basis is amazing. In 2012, over 41,000 hours of service was contributed by the team. These hours represent recruiting members for, training in preparation of, and responding to searches. We call it dedication to mission – the “mission.”
It was in honor of the mission that we gathered together for the Sheriff’s Volunteer Services Banquet Feb. 15. At this event individuals from each of the units within Volunteer Services were recognized for individual achievement in their respective units.
I had the honor of presenting several SAR members in their respective categories. While SAR is a team effort and we do not do this for individual accolades, with that said, we took the time to honor some deserving team members this year.
For me this is the toughest decision we make all year. The Command Staff reviewed and discussed over a dozen worthy individuals. All members considered in their own right could be, and should be recognized. Unfortunately we are limited in this situation. Next month we will be recognizing those members who received nominations and give them their due recognition.
SAR Explorer(s) of the Year
There was no way that we could have recognized one of the “Rescue Twins” and not the other this year. Casey and Micheal Riggs are the Co-Explorers of the Year. This is well-deserved recognition. The Rescue Twins participated in the most searches by the Explorers and contributed the most hours among the Explorers. Explorer Advisor Walt Eichinger writes, “They have positive spirit, they’re always eager to help and they have a strong desire to learn new things.”
Their participation in all aspects of the team is commendable. They attended 11 of 12 team trainings, numerous medical details, completed 80 hours of first responder training, proctored trainings and mentored new Explorers. Additionally, they are training to be certified in USAR and the Type 1 resource. Their participation in all aspects of the team is commendable. The Riggs led all other Explorers in hours (Casey 491 Michael 483). The Rescue Twins are well deserving of the 2012 SAR Explorers of the Year.
2012 SAR Rookie of the Year
Ed Griffith has been selected as the SAR Rookie of the Year by his peers on the team. Ed graduated with the 2011 SAR Academy after retiring as a sergeant with the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office in 2010 after a 20-plus-year career. Ed wasn’t ready for the life of golf and bridge clubs, so he sought out the team as the perfect service-oriented group for his background. (That and I think his wife Suzy needed to get him out of the house.)
From the start, Ed made a great impression on the team. His background and experience has been a huge plus for the unit. Ed’s quiet professionalism becomes readily apparent the more interaction you have with him. Whatever you ask of him, he’s willing to do to help out. Ed played a huge role in the 2012 SAR Academy acting as the Academy corporal. In this role he mentored, cajoled and sometimes “urged” students towards success. His dedication to the mission in his short time with the team makes him SAR Rookie of the Year.
SAR Member(s) of the Year
As has been the tradition in the past few years, we were able to select two members as SAR Member(s) of the Year. With over 200 people on the team and the incredible work put in by everyone this past year, I’d like to thank Wilma Murray and Tim Murphy for their great service this year.
Tim joined the team in 2010 with his fiancée Laura Carmody. From the beginning, Tim hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back. He was last year’s SAR Rookie of the Year. In 2012, Tim attended all 12 out of 12 monthly team trainings. He contributed over 800 hours of service to the SAR Team. And on top of this, when he’s not doing SAR, he also volunteers with the Sheriff’s Dive Team.
One of Tim’s primary focuses on the team is as one of the leaders of the Team’s Urban Search and Rescue Resource. This is a dedicated sub group on the team training for disaster response in preparation for when the “big one” hits. While there are several key people that make the USAR resource successful, Tim is an integral component. Tim has learned his craft and cross trained with local fire departments and he brings these skills back to train others on the team. He consistently steps up and helps at various team trainings. When something needs to get done, he’s there to lend a hand.
If all this was not enough to keep Tim busy, in the past few months Tim embarked on training a canine to do search and rescue work. This is a huge commitment and once his training is completed, he will add another incredible resource to the team. Tim is always willing to lend a hand and to come in to OES on a moment’s notice and ensure our equipment is ready. His positive attitude, contribution to the mission and willingness to serve makes him a great SAR Member of the Year.
Wilma occasionally questions whether she has what it takes to perform what is expected of a SAR member … which I think is her way of disarming you. She is one of the most active members on the team. She, too, joined SAR out of the 2010 Academy along with her husband Paul and has made her mark on the team. (The 2010 academy produced some great members.) Not only is Wilma a fixture responding to searches, she participates in the USAR, man-tracking and metal detector resources. In 2012, she contributed over 600 hours of service to the team.
Wilma is a key player in shaping the SAR team’s future. She currently helps run our new member recruiting and helps manage our monthly new member orientations. In addition, she plays a huge role in our coaching program, allowing our new volunteers to be actively engaged with team veterans to ensure they successfully integrate onto the team. Her drive to continue the growth of the team through quality new members is exemplary and demonstrates her commitment.
Wilma is also the team’s recording secretary and resident newsletter editor and article enforcer. (She hounded me for two weeks for this month’s article … but I didn’t want her to get the scoop on this award!)
Two instances this year on searches show me how, even though she questions whether she is a SAR operator, she really is. Early in the year we conducted a very extensive search in Crockett for a despondent gentleman. Late in the day, one of our teams found the subject’s body inside a drain pipe with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Everyone was tired and facing the less-than-thrilling idea of a body recovery.
In preparation of fielding a recovery team, I asked the members on stand-by at the CP who could stick around and assist the coroner with the recovery. Wilma was the first to raise her hand and volunteer. It’s one thing to volunteer to search, it’s another to volunteer to bag a decomposing body and carry it out of a ravine. Like the others that volunteered, Wilma was an operator and helped us complete the task.
The other example was on New Year’s Eve a little over a month ago as we assisted Marin County with the search and eventual rescue of a wayward hiker on Mt. Tamalpais. The terrain was brutal and the victim had severe hypothermia. Getting to the victim was no easy task. Once the gentleman was packaged in the rescue litter, it took four-and-a-half hours to carry him out to where an ambulance could take him to the hospital. There was no way to airlift him out and there was no defined trail to on which to extricate him. It was all bushwhacking over very steep terrain.
This patient carry out was epic and required multiple rope raising and lowering systems, as well as good-old-fashioned manpower to hand carry the victim to safety. Wilma was there every step of the way. She was so focused on the extraction that near the end of the carryout a tree stump jumped out and tripped her and she went *** over tea kettle off the trail and landed in a blackberry bramble below. Not injured, she shook herself off, climbed back onto the trail and continued assisting with the carryout. If she ever doubted she is an operator, that night should give her the confidence to know she is.
Wilma, Tim the recognition of SAR Member of the Year is well deserved for both of you. Congratulations.
Special mention goes to SAR team members Andy Comly, who received the Reserve Deputy of the Year award, and Ed Molascon, who received the Volunteer Services Volunteer of the Year. Both are incredibly dedicated and though their first home is SAR, have made great contributions to the Sheriff's Volunteer Program as a whole.
I want to thank everyone on the team for a great year of service and I look forward to working with you throughout 2013.