Class of 2013 Profiles

Anderson Nick-SNICK ANDERSON

I am a junior at Acalanes High School. I enjoy spending time with friends, hunting, fishing, hiking, biking and wrestling for Acalanes. I am a co-president for the Model UN Club and a member of the politics club at school. I hope to join the Navy and my life goal is to become a Navy SEAL.

CHRIS BISCHOFFBischoff Christopher-S

I've been living in California for the past nine years and have really come to love it. I’m currently a senior in high school and will be graduating this January. I can’t wait! After high school I hope to get an EMT certification. My hobbies are rock climbing, skiing and hiking. My real passion is downhill mountain biking. I love flying down mountains as fast as I can and pushing my limits on a bike. When there’s snow around, I don’t mind doing that on skis either. Recently SAR functions have become a favorite of mine as well. I look forward to getting to know and work with all of you in the coming years.

Dudley Ethan-SETHAN DUDLEY

I am 17 years old and go to Northgate High School. I want to attend the US Air Force Academy and become a helicopter pilot for combat search and rescue. When I learned about CoCoSAR, I immediately looked into how to join. SAR has been awesome so far and is far better than Boy Scouts. I am looking forward to my first callout.

CYNTHIA FIELDField Cynthia-S

Serendipity is defined as “A happy accident … the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it … .” After I attended the orientation specifically to involve my son, someone encouraged me to fill out an application. I had no idea what I was in for. So, radically and quickly SAR changed my outlook and approach to many things. I started learning many new skills; I started moving fast; looking back and ahead; and learning from embarrassing mistakes. I learned how to use my bag, my equipment and working on being on time, looking professional and mentally engaged in scenarios. I started to really appreciate the strengths, personalities and backgrounds of my fellow academy students, my academy sergeant, proctors and coaches for their talents and their expertise in the material they presented. I can’t believe so much has happened in so little time and I have met the best of the best people I will ever meet. Rarely have I seen such dedication to the heart of mission with steadfastness and professionalism. I am honored be a member of SAR and I am grateful that SAR found me!

Garcia Linda-SLINDA GARCIA

Though I’m a lifelong resident of Contra Costa County, my day job, also known as “the job I do for money,” is in Daly City (yes, the commute is, ummm, challenging.)

However, Contra Costa is my home and giving back to the community here has been a part of my life for at least the last 30 years. I was a Camp Fire Boys and Girls leader for 17 of those years and community service (as well as outdoor skills) is a huge part of that program.

When my own kids grew up and moved away – one to New Zealand and the other to the “Only Rational City in Texas” (aka, Austin) – I followed a lifelong interest in EMS and picked up my EMT certification. I have now spent many years doing volunteer medical support at weekend events and teaching EMT skills, WFR, and CPR for various other programs during the evenings. When I heard about CoCoSAR from a friend and current CoCoSAR member, it sounded like an organization where I could give back to my community in a structured and ongoing way that combined both my love of the outdoors and my interest in EMS.

With the support of my long-suffering husband of 35 years, I decided to apply to be a member the team. So far, my experience in CoCoSAR has been wonderfully positive. The academy was well-run, the training excellent, and now I’m just looking forward to getting that first all-team callout so I can put some of it to good use.

Hunter Autumn-SAUTUMN HUNTER

I've lived all over the northern half of California, but I'm now conveniently located less than two minutes from OES, where I live with my boyfriend and co-conspirator Matt. I'm hilariously upbeat and cheerful, and I also think I'm pretty funny, which is bad because I have about three jokes! I'm a huge nerd, and in my spare time, I play a lot of D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). Despite my best efforts, I don't know how to rock climb, and I've never been backpacking – two things I hope to learn at some point in the next year.

SHAWN INKSInks Shawn-S

My path towards search and rescue started several years ago after turning 40, when I made a commitment to add something to my life that would push me both mentally and physically. Added to this was a strong desire to feel more connected to my community, and hopefully build some relationships with local people.

I have spent the past 20 years working in the pharmaceutical industry, getting up before dawn and heading off to Alameda and Solano counties, which left me somewhat out of touch with the community around me. SAR seemed like a perfect way to fill these needs, while also allowing me to spend time in the great outdoors, another important part of my life.

I live in Bay Point with my wife Gina, a P.E. teacher for the Mt. Diablo School District, and our 9-year-old son Jared. I also have a 19-year-old son who is working and going to college in the Sacramento area.

Murray Scott-SSCOTT MURRAY

After recovering from the most excellent adventure known as UNO, I am very happy and proud to have become a conditional member of the Type 2 team. I decided to become a member of CoCo SAR as a result of a tragedy that happened to a close friend of my family and am very excited about honing the skills that I have been taught over the past few months to try to help others that have gone missing.

I live in Danville with my wife, dog and two cats (wreck and havoc) and fortunately get to see my three sons regularly despite the fact that they have all flown the nest (although one is an Oregon Duck and I suspect he will be returning to the nest for a while come graduation next June).

I anxiously await my first callout and have my 24-hour pack ready to go when that occurs. Until then I will continue to work representing physicians and hospitals in professional liability actions, which I am trying to do on a less-than-full-time basis so that I will not miss an opportunity to help in any search in which I am currently qualified to assist. I look forward to working with and learning from all of my new SAR team members in the future and to become a valuable contributor to this organization.

Neidhard Richard-SRICHARD NEIDHARDT

I was born and raised in South Carolina. I spent my boyhood in the '50s fishing (we lived on a lake), hunting, and with an all-consuming interest in all things that crawled, swam and flew. I still have those interests.

In 1966, after attending the University of South Carolina, I served in the US Army for three years. My last duty station was at Ft. Carson, CO, where I developed a passion for rock climbing and mountaineering. In 1972 I bought a piece of land in the Ozark Mountains of north central Arkansas. I moved there in 1973 with my pregnant wife and year-old daughter. I built an oak log cabin with hand tools, and lived in it through the '70s with an assortment of chickens, goats, pigs, mules and other critters. Since I had no one to rock climb with, and the Ozarks is karst country, riddled with caves, I naturally became a hard-core caver.

We moved to California in 1986 (with three daughters now), where I continued my career in construction. After 40 years as an estimator/construction manager, I retired in 2008. I've been a volunteer (reptile team) at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum since 2004. Since 2010 I've been a volunteer on the condor crew at Pinnacles National Park, and a member of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory telemetry team for three years. And since all of that didn't keep busy enough, I joined CoCoSAR, and graduated from the 2013 Academy. I'm excited about it, and look forward to serving with you all.

Piercy Dana-SDANA PIERCY

Two years ago I was backpacking in Desolation Wilderness, when I and two other girls got lost. We spent the next 12 hours scared, cold, hungry, thirsty and mosquito-bitten. At about 1 a.m., a search and rescue team found us.

I am so grateful to the individuals who were prepared to spend the entire night searching for us, and I will forever be in their debt. By joining Contra Costa Search and Rescue, I hope to help other families the same way that SAR helped mine.

I'm a junior at Acalanes High School, and I love my life. I know so many awesome people, and I am given so many great opportunities. I love backpacking, skiing, snowboarding, diving and shopping. I also enjoy photography and hanging out with my friends.

I'm so excited to be a part of SAR, and I can't wait to meet more of the team!

GUS RODRIGUEZRodriguez Gustavo-S

I believe I was put on this earth to go out there and save that one person that no one else on this world could save and bring home. I am Colombian and a U.S. citizen since 2012, engaged to a beautiful Colombian woman named Nego and also have a beautiful stepdaughter Pitufis. One good day I found Jim Gay, an emergency room nurse at Kaiser, who talked to me about search and rescue and told me stories of missing people. I said “I need to have one of those!”

At that that time I was about 400 pounds and decided make some changes in my life. I lost 200 pounds and decided to enter the CoCoSAR Academy and now I'm an active member of the exquisite Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, Type 3. Currently I 'm in technical study to be surgical tech and I work as a security specialist in the emergency department. I have lived in Pleasant Hill since 2008 and joined the San Francisco Giants as greeter for the clubhouses.

Sherdil Edris-SEDRIS SHERDIL

I’m a 16-year-old junior at San Ramon Valley High. I’ve lived in Danville for my entire life. I currently volunteer for John Muir Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, and the American Red Cross. I enjoy volunteering, hiking, and medicine so I, along with a few friends, decided to join SAR.

I want to go to Stanford, UCSB, or UCSD to study pre-med or biology and aspire to become an ER physician or a cardiac surgeon after I graduate college.

CAMERON SOOSoo Cameron-S

My first experiences with SAR started in Sacramento County while I was going to CSU, Sacramento for my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. With previous outdoor knowledge as an Eagle Scout, I joined Sacramento Search and Rescue with the hopes of getting involved in the community and applying my outdoor knowledge to the field. Hundreds of callouts, trainings, and two UNOs later, I left the field to go to the Sacramento Police Academy. After moving back to the Bay Area, I decided to head back to school to pursue a master’s degree. I am very excited at the opportunity of returning to the search and rescue community, to improve my outdoor skills and pass on my previous experiences and knowledge to the next generation of CoCoSAR members.

Sutter John-SJOHN SUTTER

I’m originally from Marin, although I also grew up in several Asian countries. I graduated from UC Davis and the University of Washington, with degrees in international studies. I then spent 23 years in Alexandria, VA, with the Defense Intelligence Agency. A ground-pounder since age 17, I’m about to retire from the Army Reserves after 33 years, which included active duty for eight of the past 10 years and multiple deployments.

My wife, Susan (an avid hiker), and I moved to San Ramon one year ago. We have a daughter (17) and a son (15). My hobbies include travelling, a love of baseball, and boring people with my war stories. CoCoSAR’s activities fit nicely with my Army training, desire to serve the community and love of the outdoors. I’m really looking forward to improving my medical skills and rope work, many of the other training opportunities, and the baked goods Wilma mentioned during the introductory meeting.

Volga Michelle-SMICHELLE VOLGA

I am currently a sophomore at Acalanes High School. This is going to be my second year running varsity track and field. I have been taking Tae Kwon Do since first grade. I got my first-degree black belt in fourth grade, have been teaching it since I got my second degree in sixth grade, then I got my third degree in ninth grade and am currently working on my fourth degree.

During the summer before seventh grade, someone attempted to kidnap me near the Berkeley Marina. I was so grateful to the officers and EMTs who responded so quickly, and I knew that I needed to give back, I just wasn't sure how. So at Stanley Middle School I became very involved in the volunteer club, Opportunity Knocks, as well as the leadership class there. However, neither of those fulfilled my need to give back. So as soon as I was old enough, I joined the Sheriff Cadets program. The details (which most of you SAR members may recognize me from) are always a blast and teach me so much. The Cadet Post gives me opportunities to try things I never thought I would be able to try and I get to meet so many amazing people.

In the midst of many sergeants, lieutenants, and captains, I met Rick Kovar, who told me about search and rescue. While reading more about SAR, I fell in love with what SAR members do, both individually and as a team. I knew I needed to be a part of this amazing team, and I am so blessed to be given this opportunity.

White Harold-SHOWARD WHITE

I grew up in Martinez, graduated from Alhambra High and planned a career with the CHP. Well, as they say, my plans changed and I went to work for EBMUD and recently retired from there after 34 years of blissful employment.

My wife Debbie and I have been married for 29 years. We have two sons – Paden, 20, and Dylan, 19. I have been a lifelong Giants/49ers fan. I enjoyed playing bocce for many years. I love to camp, fish and hunt. Since retiring, I finally got my chance at joining search and rescue and enjoy learning new things with a great group of people. Time to enjoy the next chapter of my life!

Searcher Spotlight: Nancy Hart

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Searchers swarmed the area in Danville around Nancy Hart's 1950s rancher home one evening this May in an effort to find her autistic son. Of course, this wasn't a real scenario and her son wasn't really missing. But it could have been real, because Nancy has a son with autism (now high-functioning) and who had, in the past, gone missing. 

This time, however, it was a mock search Hasty Squad training and Nancy was in the thick of it.

Autism has been front and center in Nancy's life and it is one of the reasons she joined CoCoSAR in 2005, since she knew autistic children frequently go missing. Also, Hurricane Katrina had just happened and she wanted to be part of a team that could help in a disaster. Those reasons, along with her enjoyment of camping and rock climbing, contributed to her decision to join the team.

Right away she jumped into a high level of involvement, going from EMR to becoming an EMT, writing up the SAR Academy manual and then becoming the academy sergeant for two years. A few years ago, Nancy had to leave the team for medical reasons, but now she's back and raring to go. “I'm really happy to be back,” she says.

Nancy was born in San Jose but moved about a bit before settling in Danville. In her day job she works as an IT project manager for John Muir, but she has also, over the years, put in some serious work toward enlightening others about autism through Cure Autism Now. 

Her children – son Connor is 19, daughter Sarah is 21 – are both in college but to keep her company while they're away she has a dog, a rescue cat and a built-up Land Rover Defender 90 (that she says draws some serious envy). For fun she goes to Disneyland, studies languages (including modern Greek), researches nutritional strategies, reads history, and works in her garden.

Oh. And then there's SAR … again. This time she's going to start by venturing more into USAR training.

The SAR team wisdom that Nancy offers is that “It takes a team to find a person.” 

As an example, she cites a search in which she and her teammates spent several hours simply standing on a road. 

“The strategy was to flush out an autistic boy by moving him forward with the noise of searchers and helicopters,” she says. “It worked! He was found that day after spending a night in the woods.”

In essence, “even though a team member might not get a very glamorous assignment, everyone plays an important part,” she says. “All I did was stand on a road. If I hadn't done my part along with everyone else doing their parts as perimeters, the strategy would not have worked.”

So now she's back and ready to do her part.

Searcher Spotlight: Brian Mapel

DSC09144“Basically I’m still a kid playing with erector sets and Tonka toys; it’s just that the sandbox is a little bigger now.”

That’s how Brian Mapel sums up his career as an engineer. A graduate of Santa Clara University who earned his business master’s at Cal, Brian now owns his own firm that provides temporary structure designs for large infrastructure projects.

 “We get to dream up all kinds of unorthodox solutions and then go build them … stuff you’d never get away with in the world of permanent design,” he says.

But even with all this expertise, he still learned something from his three years of CoCoSAR experience that he has translated into his paid work.

“On one of our projects last year we hauled a 100,000-pound excavator up a dam face using a haul system I modeled off of something (Tim) Murphy showed me in USAR,” Brian says.

Brian, though, gives as good as he gets, offering his skills to proctor for USAR and his experience in leadership (gleaned, in part, from his time as a tank commander in the Army) for all team activities.

His younger years were spent in the southern part of the state and country (Los Angeles and Houston) with a tight-knit family. After a few more moves he landed in Martinez, despite the fact that his parents and one of his siblings, with whom he is very close, still live in L.A. But he and his sister have often met up for trips overseas to such places as Thailand, New Zealand and Japan.

Besides travel, he also enjoys backpacking and kayaking, live music, theater and art. And in addition to these activities and a stressful job that sounds like it should take up ALL of his time, he still spends about four months a year leading a group of professionals in mentoring high school kids with an eye toward interesting them in architecture, construction or engineering.

And then there’s SAR.

 “My teammates make SAR worth the work and the effort. I could take any handful of people on this team and show you a handful of exceptional people,” he says. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who are passionate about what they do, and this team just exemplifies that. It’s a real pleasure every month to spend time with this group.”

Searcher Spotlight(s): The Riggs Brothers

Riggs Casey-MThey are most often referred to as the Riggs, or “the twins” (although they are not the only set of team or even Explorer twins, anymore). Individually, one or the other might simply be called “Riggs,” but people who do that confess to doing so because they have trouble telling Micheal and Casey apart.
         
Various methods have been used to distinguish them: the shape of their glasses; a hairstyle, perhaps; something tied to a shoelace. But often even that fails to make a clear distinction. (And, on at least one occasion, the uniform blouse wasn’t an accurate way to tell, either, because they’ve been known to switch shirts – not on purpose, of course.)
           
When asked to answer the spotlight questions, the first response was a joint one covering both boys. They do, after all, both live in Walnut Creek and are originally from Danville. They both joined CoCoSAR as ninth graders, at the ripe age of 14.
        
Both love hiking and backpacking. Both work on and off at the Brenden Theatres.
        
Neither likes to read, particularly, though Casey will pick up a book on a subject that fascinates him and Michael likes the P.G. Wodehouse books on tape. At 17, they are both looking into the same colleges and plotting a similar path in the world of filmmaking, which includes their recent acceptance into an exciting mentoring program with a professional filmmaker.
            
Riggs Micheal-MBut a little digging determines there are a few variances, albeit subtle ones and not just the physical “my head is more rounded and Casey’s is narrower” types of differences Micheal cites.
         
Casey, for instance, got into making film first. He loves photography and it’s the videography and production end that most grabs him.
          
When Micheal finally caught the filmmaking bug, too, he veered toward the technical end with editing more up his alley. Casey says his plan is to get a master’s degree in cinematography and photography. Micheal will aim toward editing and sound mixing.
        
Asked if they will then work together, Casey says “why not?” since it’s easier to get his brother to do the editing than to hire someone else. You’ve heard of the Coen Brothers, he says, so, “Why can’t it be the Riggs Brothers?”
       
They also love the “culture of the outdoors,” but Micheal says Casey is more of a “hipster” kind of guy but he is all about plaid. Casey will venture farther afield to conduct missions such as building a house in Mexico, whereas Micheal is content to hang and hike around home base.
         
Casey is a little quieter around the SAR camp, a man of fewer words than Micheal. “One of the most valuable things I have experienced in SAR is teamwork,” he says. “Searches and trainings continually show me how working as a team produces the most effective results.”
          
Micheal, on the other hand, is likely to pop up and offer a little speech when the opportunity arises, like at an orientation night. And he is a little more verbose in his evaluation of his SAR experience, so he gets the last word(s):
       
“There are many times, during my SAR training and during some searches I think of something Yvon Chouinard said: ‘Real adventure is defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive, and certainly not as the same person.’ I may not really be in danger of dying during my SAR experiences, but it has definitely changed my life for the better,” Micheal says. “The mission, the different types of people and the work have given me an experience I would not have had in any other way.”
 

Searcher Spotlight: David Cossu

Team members may not hear much from David Cossu, but he gets things done with a quiet efficiency. As a network consulting engineer for a large telecommunications company, he has some specific skills to offer and, if asked to use his expertise in the technical realm, he’s on it – helping to print out maps during a search or figuring out how to import a photo of a subject for dissemination, for example.

Last year, David earned member recognition for the month of May because of his help resolving a longstanding issue with network communications for several of the team's most critical search tools.

Prior to his work in telecommunications, David served in the Army for almost four years. During that time he lived in and traveled to a wide variety of places and enjoyed learning the history from each locale.

But despite living for some time back east, as well as in Turkey and Germany, he settled close to his roots – which were in Fairfield. He now lives in Walnut Creek with wife DeeAnna and three kids (not to mention a dog, cat and six chickens with possibly a rabbit on the way).

When David is not volunteering his time, he spends it with his kids and their activities. He also likes to ski, fish, river raft and hang out with friends over a good barbecued meal.

David joined CoCoSAR in the fall of 2010. He was looking to volunteer his time to something he felt “was meaningful and had a strong purpose and goal,” he says. After the orientation, he says, he was also attracted to the structure and the importance of the role SAR played in the community.

While bringing teamwork as well as technical skills to the team, David also continues to explore learning new things. He says he wants to continue to become more versatile and useful in different team capacities.

Three simple truths he says he has learned so far:

1.     You are not getting a call in the middle of the night from the Sheriff’s Office because someone just wants to chat with you, or they’re bored and have nothing better to do.

2.     When able, always check and see if you are needed to swing by OES to pick up a vehicle

3.     Make sure you have a dry pair of socks in your pack at all times.

David says he has been impressed with how well CoCoSAR members conduct themselves during multi-agency, out-of-county efforts, and “the high level of professionalism that is demonstrated at all times.” In particular, he points to the recent Mt. Tamalpais extrication and the leadership, knowledge and dedication that made the mission a success.

“Let me just say this, our Type 1’s just rock, with the directions they provided and rigging up of the several safety lines during the recent Stinson Beach callout – and under considerable stress, I might add,” David says. “(It was) nothing short of remarkable and inspiring … it was a New Year’s Eve/Day that I will not soon, if ever, forget.

“If I had to pass something along, I would say any efforts you are making to maintain your level of physical conditioning while in SAR does pay dividends, and really does pay off in some of these environments we are asked to operate in.

“It continues to be both an honor and privilege to serve as a member of the team with such a dedicated and professional, able-bodied group of people sharing in these common goals.”

Searcher Spotlight: Lana Gorina

One paragraph of self-description tells a large volume of what one might expect from Lana Gorina. She says: “My skills are best described as canine traits: high drive, energy, tenacity, well-socialized, friendly, likes food and toys, loves people and other dogs, curious and fairly brave, solid bite inhibition (one would hope), exposed to many environments/cultures/people, well-educated and properly trained. A few issues with basic obedience, but it's a work in progress.”

Lana’s canine references are apt, because it was her shepherd that motivated her to join CoCoSAR and Mila (pronounced Mee-la) is currently in training as a trailing dog with the Canine Resource.

That Lana has a sense of humor is evident the moment one meets her, just as it’s evident that she is not at all shy. The Academy of 2011, which she attended, heard from her early – and often.

Born in the former USSR, Lana lived in Poland, East Germany and Cuba before coming to the United States in 1990. She now lives in a remote part of El Sobrante with her only remaining family member (her brother) and tons of wild animals, along with the tame ones she cares for – two dogs and two cats.

She is a biochemist by education, and has spent most of her professional career as a scientist in oncology and respiratory drug development until about a year ago. Currently unemployed, she says she is enjoying the opportunity to spend more time on searches and training.

For fun, Lana used to race motorcycles and volunteer as a riding instructor at local racetracks, and she enjoys reading and cooking, “but this SAR team thingy and dogs take a big chunk of my not-so-free time now,” she says.    

“I will try anything at least once. Granted, I am addicted to new challenges, and as soon as I become skilled at something that used to be impossible for me to conquer, I move on and look for a harder challenge. So, I finally found myself a hobby that seems to have endless challenges and adventures to offer.”     

Besides giving her challenges, SAR has also given Lana new, strong associations and close friendships.    

“I am glad to be surrounded by a bunch of people who seem to have the same never-give-up attitude,” she says. “Where else can one find a couple of hundred people driven by inexplicable desire to make their lives less comfy and relaxing through constant training, searches and other team-related activities preparing for the Big One, or anything else of that sort?”    

To that end, she believes all the hassle of training is well worth it, not to mention, expected. Prior to joining CoCoSAR, she attended trainings in other counties and was not sold. But her first experience with CoCoSAR – playing a dead subject at a full-team medical training – gave her a, one could say, corpse-eye view of how this team works. She was impressed.    

“I saw many people doing many different things, making mistakes, trying, learning, succeeding, failing, trying again, constantly moving around – a well-orchestrated chaos in motion – and I thought ‘yep, this is definitely a place for me’,” she says. “Being a member of our CoCo SAR team feels like being a part of a big dysfunctional yet very happy and loving family. We all have the same mission, and we all contribute to it according to our desire and abilities. This implicit feeling of trust I have about my teammates during searches is a very powerful motivator.”

And Lana is especially appreciative of her Canine Resource “family.”    

“Every time I log in my canine training hours, I am thinking how many more hours my teammates spent planning, training, and troubleshooting me and my dog,” she says. “For every one hour of my time, it's at least five more hours of my team members’. Their dedication, constant support, encouragement and patience is absolutely incredible.”

 

Searcher Spotlight: Natalie Gore

“Sometimes when the phones start ringing in my house, I think No, I don't want to go out into the cold!” Natalie Gore says. “But I pull myself out of bed (sometimes grumbling), get dressed and head out. I have never once on a search thought I wish I wasn't here. But there have been a few times I couldn't go and I thought I wish I was there.

That about sums up Natalie’s enthusiasm for the work. She may not have known quite what she was getting into when she joined the team in 2010, but she has certainly gotten into it – her face is familiar around OES and all Search and Rescue Team events.

Originally, she was looking for some way to volunteer her time, but it was hubby Andy Csepely’s idea to look into search and rescue. She came along to see what it was all about and they joined together. They make a dynamic, committed team, often travelling together to OES from their home in San Ramon several times a week to proctor, help with training or logistics, attend search management classes, and so on.

Natalie admits she’s not a particularly outdoorsy person and she’s often happier sitting alone crunching numbers, reading or working on one of her many crafts projects (the current passion is quilting) than interacting with lots of people. But she adjusts well when she’s in search-and-rescue mode, participating in the Hasty Squad, leading a training, coaching, or working with the Explorers.

“I try to stay positive, so I'd like to think I bring a little bit of encouragement to others,” she says. “I am also persistent – some may say stubborn. I think this is a good quality in a searcher.”

Natalie finished her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Cal State East Bay after she joined the Search and Rescue Team, but continued to work in inside sales until December. At that time, she decided to go back to school and take the CPA exam so she can get her dream job in finance/accounting. “I am trying to take control of my career path,” she says.

Asked for her advice for other team members, Natalie says, “Don't be afraid to ask questions and talk to other members you don't know. Most people – if not all – are good people that really want to help. I feel like I learn something new at each training. Part of that is that there is so much to learn.” 

Is she glad she joined the team? “It's not always easy, but it is satisfying,” she says. “I may never find someone, but it won’t stop me from looking.”

Searcher Spotlight: Andy Csepely

Every time Andy Csepely hears the Beatles song “Help!” emanating from his phone, he gets excited, because the ringtone signifies a SAR callout. As Type 1 qualified and a member of the Hasty Squad, he hears that tone quite a bit, and he’s usually up for it.

That is, he’s up for it when he’s not obligated to be at one of his two paid jobs as an IT specialist and an Air Force reservist.         

Andy spent his early years in Germany and Hungary before moving to California in 1987, where he lived in the South Bay. He spent four years serving in the Air Force then he started his career in information technology while still maintaining his Air Force connection. He has been in the reserves going on eight years now and spent some of that time in Kuwait (2008) and Iraq (2010).       

Currently he works for ClubSport as the system administrator and he spends a weekend a month at Travis Air Force Base, where he has a variety of roles, including logistics, air transportation and emergency management.        

But, as if two “jobs” weren’t enough, Andy went looking for another activity in which to pour his (seemingly endless) energy and he found CoCoSAR. He and wife Natalie joined together in 2010.        

It was a good fit for someone who has camped and backpacked for most of his life and has extensive knowledge of radios, communications and much more (not to mention that energy).

“I consider myself a jack-of-all trades, master-of-none-kind of guy,” Andy says. “So I try to help where I can, and learn whenever possible.           

He’s also an adventurous soul who loves to ride motorized bikes (dirt or road).

Andy says he’ll always remember his first search as a fresh Academy grad – an out-of-county search for a mushroom hunter in a forest. “The subject was located alive and well, and it was amazing to see everything come together, including watching a Cal Fire crew cut a trail to the subject’s location in some heavy brush in a matter of minutes,” he says. “I was able to witness the search, the find, the extraction and the subject reuniting with his brother on that search … not a bad first callout.”           

Andy’s advice for SAR members serves as good advice in general: “Always trust your gut instinct and your training,” he says. “I’ve doubted my skills a few times at both trainings and on a search, and realized that I shouldn’t have. If something feels right, go with it. If something feels wrong, don’t ignore it.” 

Searcher Spotlight: Laura Carmody

She lives with Marty, Keira, Yoshi and Tim in Antioch, but that’s a small family compared to the one Laura Carmody grew up with. One of 12 kids raised in Manhattan Beach in Southern California, Laura is used to a mob, so four roommates is a breeze. And of her current in-house family, only one of them – her fiancé, Tim Murphy – doesn’t have fur or feathers. (Marty is an African grey parrot and Keira and Yoshi are German shepherds.)

Laura is an adventurous sort. Recently, she was seen hanging from a rock cliff with a stokes litter in the wind and rain (USAR training), cheerful all the way. She also is an avid scuba diver who has traveled the world enjoying her sport. And she runs … and runs (marathons and 10K races).

Whenever she would hear of disasters in the world, Laura wanted to be part of a responding team. But due to work, she knew she had to look closer to home for any volunteer efforts. That’s why she chose CoCoSAR.

When she joined the team in the fall of 2010, she thought she might train a search dog and/or use her medical skills in the field. So far, the latter seems more likely. As an emergency room RN, Laura has plenty of experience dealing with sudden and major health issues, training which very well could come in handy on a search. While her job keeps her busy, Laura shows up all smiles to whatever SAR events and trainings she can attend.

And in her free time, she slows down to garden “for food, foliage and flowers,” she says, and to read and do Sudoku puzzles. Then she picks it back up again to hike. Whenever she goes hiking, she says, she has learned that doing so with her 20-pound pack makes trainings and searches easier when the time comes.

Her other piece of SAR advice is philosophical – if a little mysterious and with multiple layers of meaning: “Sometimes you open a door and it doesn’t lead to the room you expected,” she says. “But the room has many other doors that, when opened, lead to things you never thought of or expected.”

Searcher Spotlight: Steve Wilson

Some team members have goals such as attaining Type 1 status, becoming efficient navigators or mastering USAR skills. Steve Wilson, while interested in achieving those goals, also has another, perhaps less-lofty (but no less important) goal: to not be considered “a pain in the ass” by the SAR Command Staff.

It was during his first SAR year, in 2009, that Steve heard himself described that way, and he admits to being involved in a few “incidents” during that time. His most memorable one happened during Advanced Land Navigation, and it involved a bull, a locked gate and a lack of battery power.

The short version is that Steve was running out of time to return to the rally point, so he opted for a short cut. That’s when he met the bull, to whom he looked better than a red flag. In his haste to avoid being gored, he rerouted to his car in the parking lot, but the gate to the road to the rally point was locked.

Meanwhile, at the rally point, the rest of the team was trying to reach Steve on the radio without luck. (All three of his battery packs were too weak to transmit.) The result was what all SAR team members most dread – Steve became the object of a search.

“I could hear the team calling for me on the radio and starting to initiate a search for me.  I sent a text message to the person in charge and drove around the parking lot hoping to hit a cell signal. Listening to the stages building for a search for me, it was the hardest thing for me to not start hiking to the rally point,” Steve says. “Far more than UNO, that experience taught me how hard it is for the missing person to stay in one place, and the guilty feelings I had about a search being called out on my behalf.”

Nonetheless, undaunted on his path toward Type 1, Steve passed Advanced Land Nav the next year. He hopes to continue to be snow-and-ice certified eventually, since he has a lot of experience with skiing steep terrain and surviving cold and fierce weather in Michigan.

Steve is a transplant from the Midwest, originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan. He earned a master’s degree in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University and segued his education and early career training into a job with Chevron, where he has worked in IT for 30 years.

For most of that time, he lived in Concord, but currently he lives in Alamo with his girlfriend and a cat on loan from his girlfriend’s daughter. Besides skiing, Steve enjoys golf and hiking.  Steve is a world traveler who has ventured to New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia and beyond, and has visited all the states in the U.S.

It was a personal loss that brought Steve to the CoCoSAR team. In 2007, he lost his wife to cancer and turned his grief to a constructive cause.

“I thought, what better thing to do than contribute to a team with the motto ‘That others may live’,” Steve says. “Having gone through the unexpected loss of a loved one, I wanted to contribute to a team that tries to prevent that from happening to other people.”