Mock Search: November Full Team Training Recap

By Randy Franks

The fewer hours of daylight in fall and winter increase the likelihood of searching in the dark. With Standard Time bringing the onset of darkness even earlier, Contra Costa Search and Rescue used its November full-team training to conduct a nighttime mock search.

Wilma Murray developed the scenario, which was conducted on the Muir Heritage Land Trust’s Fernandez Ranch open space. Scouts and parents from Boy Scout Troop 277 and a few other willing individuals volunteered as the subjects and their distraught families, earning praise all around for not only the commitment of their time, but also well-acted roles and valuable observations during the after-action debrief.

“The guy we found, Graham, I figured he was playing the autistic boy we were briefed to expect,” said Don Kavanagh. “But a couple different times during the rescue, I thought ‘Is he actually autistic?’ He was into it, very well done.”

The scenario involved a small group of 12 and 13 year old boys who ventured into the hills to launch homemade rockets. The volatile fuel source detonated unexpectedly, causing a range of injuries and disorientation. As dusk descended on the hilly 700-acre preserve, CoCoSAR deployed first a hasty squad and then as a full team.

The team used its full range of techniques. The first mission was a hasty search of the Command Post and immediate surroundings, which located one of the subjects in good condition within 20 minutes. He was less than 100 feet from CP, but completely hidden from view.

Team lead Brad Schimek was pleased. “It’s my first find!” he said. “Even though this is ‘just training,’ I’m genuinely proud we found him so quickly.”

Wilma Murray said later, “I placed that subject expecting he would either be found immediately or possibly not at all. I’m pleased that the team did its job and searched the CP. It is not unknown for a subject to be found very close to where searchers gather and still go unfound for several operational periods.”

Some of the team’s specialized resources and equipment were brought to bear on the missions. “[Search dog] Shannon did some good work tonight,” said handler Jennifer Wright. “It turned out our search area did not have any subjects, so no finds, but we were working well together.”

The FLIR night vision goggles were also deployed with John Banuelos’ admonishment: “The subject or clue could be behind heavy foliage, so you’ve still got to be observant. It’s night vision, not x-ray vision.”

Many new Type 2 and Type 3 team members participated. This was their first opportunity to employ new skills in a full-team environment and discover that SAR is “continuous learning.”

Luigi Pangilinan became a debriefer, a role he had only heard about during the academy, but had not experienced nor specifically trained for. “It was difficult, getting detailed accounts of search areas, especially when the team was not provided a map,” he said. “And I got cold sitting there. I really wanted go out on a mission, just to warm up.”

Another lesson emerged from the night’s last find, made by Team 17. After assisting with a live medical event involving a parent volunteer observer, the team resumed its training assignment, making many voice callouts, hearing cries for help, but not locating any subjects within their search area.

Team lead Robert Medearis said, “As we were preparing to return to CP, our navigator was focusing on getting us back onto the trail. The other three of us continued the search behind our navigator. Routine visual sweeps identified the subject down near a large oak tree.”

Cameron Soo, handling medical for the team, said it demonstrated how “we’ve got to stay sharp at all times, like on the return to CP. The assignment was covered, but the search was obviously still on.”

During the team debriefing, Operations Lieutenant Chris Nichols summed up the basic message of the night’s training. “Searching in the dark is hard,” he said to a murmur of assent, “and, this time of year, we should expect to do a lot more of it.”

Search Recap: The Mushroom Picker’s Daughter

By Patrick Dodson

What do SAR members think about while waiting in the staging area for an assignment? Maybe, did I bring the right gear; am I wearing the right clothing, what will the terrain be like; will I be the one to make the find?

Phil Novak and I were huddled under a tarp in Del Norte County, trying to avoid the rain, thinking about these things when we were confronted with the real reason we were there. A friendly young woman who introduced herself as “the daughter” came up to thank us for volunteering our time to the search effort.

She had traveled from San Diego to our location 20 miles south of the Oregon border to be present as SAR teams staged a search for the remains of her father, a man known to us as the “mushroom picker.” He had disappeared the previous January while searching for mushrooms with friends. This was to be a last-ditch effort to find his remains before the winter weather set in. 

This young woman wanted to express her gratitude and tell us what it meant to her.  She was amazed that people from throughout California would give up their weekends to search in difficult weather and terrain for a man they didn’t know.

As she spoke, it was clear that it was important to her that we knew about the man for whom we were looking. She was very proud of her father’s accomplishments in life. How else would we have learned we were searching for a man who was a world-class surfer? She was also very open about his challenges and the complexities of their relationship.

She looked at this event as a means of bringing closure to her father’s life and their relationship. She stated that no matter the results of our search, our efforts brought honor and respect to his life, and brought her a great deal of comfort.

This conversation brought Phil and I out of our concerns about the practical and tactical issues related to searching for the “subject” and made us reflect on the reason we do this. We were looking for a real person, with a life and a family, not just a picture on a flyer. The efforts of the searchers demonstrated the value and respect we all gave to this man’s life, and to the needs of the family.

We felt honored to be a part of helping the daughter deal with one of the most difficult times in her life. It took a young woman in the forests of Northern California to remind us that the importance of our mission extends far beyond search tactics and gear. Our conversation with her was the greatest reward we have had as members of CoCoSAR.

Beyond Searching: A Menu of Options for SAR Involvement

By Wilma Murray

Here’s a comment that I’ve been hearing a lot lately: I’d like to get more involved in SAR, but I don’t know where to begin. Hmm…attend any team business meeting on the first Wednesday of each month (1930 at OES) and you will most likely hear a plethora of needs announced. Look at the website, read the Callout … you will find there are activities going on behind the scenes every day.

As someone who likes to get into the middle of things, I know a little about involvement (you think?) and am happy to share some tips, both for newbies and for those who are finding themselves with a little more time of late and want to invest it in their SAR “career.” First off: It is not necessary to have a rank (corporal, sergeant, etc.) to take on important SAR jobs, so waiting for that open staff spot isn’t a prerequisite to getting going. What’s more important to consider are the answers to these questions:

  • Do you have ideas/passion/drive for a particular aspect of SAR?
  • What skill sets and talents do you bring to the table?
  • Who might you like to work for and with?

All of these answers are things to examine when looking to find your niche.

It also isn’t necessary to be more than a Type III to become involved. Type III searches don’t come around as often as we all might like, which means Type IIIers don’t see as much action for callouts. But there is still plenty to do to benefit the team and keep it mission-ready. Resources The most obvious choice is to join a resource. While some resources require a Type I or II status, both USAR and the Metal Detector resources do not, and both resources are active. (In fact, the Metal Detector Resource has had a trio of recent searches.) Check the calendar on the website for trainings, but in general, USAR trains the third Saturday of the month and Metal Detector Resource trains the last Monday evening of the month. All levels of skills and capabilities are involved with both resources and both offer bottom-to-top training.

Tracking is another resource that is busy most of the year, with many Wednesday clinics, and is open to Type III members. Tracking Sergeant John Banuelos is always looking for enthusiastic Tracking Academy graduates to help lay tracks for these clinics. The Academy is held each year in the summer (dates tentatively June 17, 18, 19 – continue to check the calendar), but on occasion the Tracking sergeant will conduct mini-clinics on tracking skills and search tactics for those who have not yet attended the Tracking Academy.

Although it’s a rare team member who will have the opportunity to train his/her own dog for the Canine Resource, all team members are welcome to participate in that training. Every week, twice a week, the canines train and on each of those occasions, the trainers seek hiders. The reward for this contribution may be a big warm slobbery kiss (no, not from the trainers), as well as the good feeling of having helped to develop excellent four-legged team members.

Within each resource there is always a need for hands-on help with the logistics of that resource and in ideas for training and sometimes administrative help. Check with any staff person and there is probably some way you may be able to help. Raised hands are seldom turned down!

A truly important way to get involved is in helping with trainings. The full-team trainings are the primary way team members are trained to core skills and in support of that mission, the Training Division is actively recruiting to build out its team. Ways to help could be anything from driving a van the day of the event, to coming up with suggestions and ideas for implementation of various trainings, to planning and presenting a mock search – the range is wide, as is the need. Training Division meetings are held on the first Monday evening of each month (which is often, but not always, the Monday prior to the training). Check the calendar and just show up. You can observe without commitment until you get comfortable. To jump in now, simply contact training@contracostasar.org. Training Lieutentant Andy Comly is willing to redirect those willing to help in other divisions, as well.

Speaking of training … proctoring is an excellent way to support the team and beef up your skills at the same time. EMR and Academy proctoring are key to the success of the program. Proctors are also used during each month’s training events and are vital to making the training program work. If you don’t understand what it means to be a proctor, check out the Callout article on proctoring from April 2011.

The Logistics group is always looking for more hands-on helpers, as well. Both skilled and unskilled labor are welcome for the frequent “rehabbing” that needs to be done – getting equipment and supplies ready for the next search, training or medical event and cleaning up from same. Lifting, moving and transporting supplies and equipment is one side of it, but those who simply like to tidy up and organize can also be put to good use.

The logistics of the Medical side of the house also could use help. After every medical event or training, there are many re-organizational tasks that are necessary. And before every medical mission there is a lot of prep work to do. During the EMR class, the need for help is weekly – Mondays and every other week Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well. In matters of communications, there are, again, a variety of ways to get involved.

The Comms Group works in developing ways to improve communications for searches and training. Bring your ideas and skills to that table if you have them or just come and learn how things work.

The IT folk work hard to improve methods for myriad search and training tasks, from printing maps to downloading GPS tracks to uploading GPS tracks. If you have a gift for or interest in technology, check in with them.

The New Members crew welcomes help from February through the fall with a number of activities and tasks. Attending orientations (the first Thursday of each month through June) and lending support there is most appreciated. Other needs include help with paperwork; for uniform sizing and dissemination; and with meeting, greeting and helping to shepherd new Academy students at trainings prior to the Academy when students are observing or role-playing.

There are public relations events throughout the year that can use people who enjoy conversing with anyone who comes to the table to learn about CoCoSAR. Again, ideas for improving the process are always needed and invited. The team is constantly on the lookout for ways to bring in money to help build programs and purchase equipment.

Fundraising is key to that, whether through grant writing, corporate-giving programs or other fundraising events. The Finance group welcomes all comers who can offer expertise or a simple willingness to help.

The website is about to be reworked and there will definitely be a need for help and suggestions as it undergoes some upgrading. And the Callout staff is always (always!) seeking more people to write articles or help in other ways. If you can’t write, perhaps you are a great photographer and can supply much-needed photos for stories. Or maybe you are adept at WordPress and can help in that way.

And let’s not forget the social side. If you are someone who enjoys people, you can use your skills for SAR Social events. At present, the team has focused on an annual picnic and holiday party, but the options are open for more ideas for those willing to take the lead.

The list goes on and on, but hopefully, you get the drift. Searches or no searches, the team takes a village to run. Every team member who steps up and adds his/her time and energy to any and all tasks helps keep the team the strong unit that it is. Touch base with your coach or take a look at the current organizational chart on the website documents page and find the staff member connected to the area that interests you; you’ll find a way to add your talents to the mix. Want to get involved? All you have to do is ask ….

CoCoSAR Picture Of The Day

photo

CoCoSAR team member Brad Schimek holds out a radio direction finder as fellow team members (John Sutter, Cameron Soo, Don Kavanaugh, Paul Healy and Kerrie Tseung) take a compass bearing on its position. The device is used as part of the team's ELT (electronic location transmitter) training. The ELT is designed to find downed aircraft and is one of the skills CoCoSAR's mountain rescue group must demonstrate as part of their annual MRA (Mountain Rescue Association) Wilderness Search Tactics recertification. (Photo Credit: Natalie Zensius)

If You’re Buying It Anyway …

astore

CoCoSAR has an Amazon Store. If you are buying anything from Amazon, please use our store to do so, since it will give the team a little extra cash and cost you nothing.
 
You are still buying directly from Amazon, but we get a commission of up to 6 percent on all purchases made from following our links. Our reports DO NOT let us know who bought what, so your privacy is intact.
 
Here is a link to our store. The search box can be a little tricky, but you will get the hang of it. You just need to choose a category – all of the rest is the same as on the Amazon site.
 
Everything available on Amazon is available on this link. If you have Prime, you can still use it for free shipping.
 
If you lose the link, there is a link on the top of theCallOut.org titled “Fundraising.”
 
Thanks in advance for your help!

Updated – Team Commendations, October 2013

Command Staff is pleased to announce the below team members as being selected for the October 2013 Member Recognition:

Lamb SteveSteve Lamb
Steve has been a busy bee on a number of activities for the SAR Team. He has been behind the scenes assisting with Logistics on a number of trainings including Urban Shield. Mainly, Steve has logged many hours with his work within USAR Logistics in doing outstanding work in organizing both the USAR Truck and USAR Trailer. His work places the SAR Team in even a better position to respond to an emergency.

Casey Riggs / Micheal RiggsRiggs Micheal Riggs Casey
Seems that both Casey and Micheal have found a niche within the Type 3 and Type 2 Academies. We believe that there was not one class or training that they did not attend and help out. That is a lot time and commitment. Add on top of that being Coach to several new Cadets and throw on top of that they attended the full team training and searches for the month. Thank you Casey and Micheal for your hard work and dedication to the SAR Team and your community.

Banuelos JohnEd_GriffithFong LarryJohn Banuelos, Ed Griffith, Larry Fong
For tremendous work, effort, and long hours over the Type II and Type III academies, as well as UNO, John Banuelos, Ed Griffith and Larry Fong earned captain’s commendations. Another great Academy season!

Eichinger WalterWalter Eichinger
And not to be forgotten: Walter Eichinger received a captain’s commendation for his extensive recent body of work. Walter has numerous jobs on the team, including among them HR lieutenant, Hasty Squad sergeant, Cadets advisor and Social Committee advisor. He put on a successful Hasty Squad training in August that required coordination with multiple agencies. In recent months he has also hosted a movie night at the Brendan Theatre and a full-team picnic. Walter’s HR responsibilities involve, among other things, tracking hours, team trainings and membership compliance, as well as updating the team roster each month. Well done, Walter!

Closure – The Gene Penaflor Tale

By John Banuelos
 
The year 2013 has certainly has been one of the more challenging years for CoCoSAR missions. In recent months, CoCoSAR has sought subjects in remote locations, subjects who were either found deceased or not found at all. For a searcher, any searcher, this is not the desired result. We all live for the words “found in good health.” But even just the word “found,” which can be code for “found deceased,” provides closure for families.
 
Closure is important for all – the best case obviously being “found in good health.” But even just “found” allows a family and friends to address their goodbyes to the spirit of a loved one. As searchers, we return to our regular lives knowing we have provided some form of comfort either way by answering the question, “Where is our loved one?”
 
penaflor aGene Penaflor disappeared while hunting on Hull Mountain. For days local SAR teams worked the high-probability areas, seeking to find this experienced, 72-year-old hunter. SAR and Sheriff resources deployed in a multi-day search effort.  Everyone wanted him found as the cold and impending bad weather of the year was coming, but nobody wanted him found more than his family and his longtime hunting partner. Hope of success filled the air over many days.
 
Like all the SAR members on Hull Mountain, Gene’s family and friends stayed the long days and cold nights on the mountain. They prayed for good news as SAR members returned from assigned searches. They helped as best they could in determining where their beloved family member and friend might have strayed.
 
Eventually a search must be called when the search team feels it has done its best. In this case, the decision to stop carried a great burden for the search manager and every searcher: The family had stood watch at the edge of the operation center waiting for news, any news. How do you tell people who love the subject that volunteer resources need to return home, high-probability areas have been covered multiple times, and the impending poor weather may prevent a safe continuation of effort? In truth there is no easy way to do this.
 
We all hoped for good news before the final decision needed to be made. We quietly talked among ourselves about staying on despite the impending weather. Yet, the hour came when SAR members and family stood together for that final talk. The families and friends understood the choices and decisions that had been made, they thanked everyone for their efforts, and then the tears came. There was to be no closure for them on that day.
 
Seeing the tears of a family was a new experience for me, but hearing the sobs of sadness from his longtime hunting partner resonated even deeper. A searcher asks him/herself many questions. Can I stay and help this family? Did I search hard enough? What more can I do? One does not wish to leave with the memory of these quiet tears and heavy sobs.
 
gene penaflorStill in the end, we searchers left, pondering on the long drive home, “Did I do enough?” Even as regular life resumed, the memory of those tears and that question continued to haunt us.
 
Lack of closure is the worst of all situations for all involved; no one is untouched.
 
But for Gene Penaflor the miracle of miracles occurred. For 19 days he survived, lost and injured in a remote canyon. He was found by hunters in the area, and then recovered by SAR and Sheriff resources. He was returned to the smiles and happy tears of reunion with family and friends.
 
Closure was, after all, granted. And relief was granted to all who left amidst the sad tears of that day, for Gene had been “found in good health.”
 
Addendum:
The following was written for another who was found deceased. It is my source of courage for searches to come. I call it my SAR prayer.
 
My uniform lies on the chair. My gear is next to it. My silent prayer continues, “May no one be lost or in silent distress shrouded by the darkness. But should they be, we will go out to search for them until found.”

Urban Shield (October Team Training Recap)

By Randy Franks

P1010246The October full team training was a unique three-day opportunity for CoCoSAR to demonstrate its “people power,” supporting the 2013 Urban Shield Exercise.
 
As part of the region-wide event, the Contra Costa Sheriff and Coroner hosted a mass-fatality scenario simulating a passenger rail crash. The scenario, involving 150 dead and 250 injured, was designed to overwhelm local and regional capabilities and require federal assistance.
 
CoCoSAR team members assisted with site set-up on Friday, October 25, coordinated logistics and staffed the Incident Command Post during the exercise on Saturday, and assisted with break-down and clean up on Sunday.
 
Urban Shield was also chance to review the team’s role as a responding agency for the Contra Costa Operational Area All-Hazards Mass Fatality Plan. According to the plan, the team would conduct search missions related to the mass fatality event. This could include canine resources searching for remains and cadavers, or ground teams searching for missing subjects.
 
Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 9.58.00 PM

A Family Support Center was deployed and staffed by the American Red Cross, CoCo Health Services and Emergency Medical Services, and CoCo Employment & Human Services. The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s disaster mortuary (DMORT) team was deployed as part of the federal assistance.
 
Alameda County Sheriff, San Mateo Sheriff, San Mateo Coroner, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, San Francisco Medical Examiner and Marin Coroner participated in the scenario.

The CoCoSAR 100

By John Banuelos
 
Type III Academy 2013One of the chief assets of CoCoSAR is its size. We number at 200-plus members at any given time. This number of members allows us to send out a solid count of searchers at any one time to provide robust assistance, both in and out of couty. And if the first callout doesn’t bring enough searchers, the number will swell with the second callout.
 
However, for the Academy staff ,the power of 200 is magnified by the commitment of its members to “pay it forward” to a new generation of Academy students.  In 2012, over 100 members participated with the Class of 2012 and its 40 candidates.  In 2013, over 100 again participated with the Class of 2013 and its 31 candidates. It is a demonstration, in my mind, of our team’s enthusiasm to help. It is volunteers volunteering even more of their time to the development of the team.
 
Members helped as coaches, a resource that was repeatedly used by 2013 candidates. Coaches represented the kind and helpful face of CoCoSAR.
 
Type II Hike 2013Other members repeatedly served as instructors and proctors to help students understand navigation, first aid, radio communication and other miscellaneous SAR skills during many lecture portions of the academies. Many gave up weekends to assist in with the Type 3 USAR Type 4 skills Saturday, the navigation practical Sunday followed by the Type 2 low-angle rigging Sunday and the full weekend of fun known as UNO.
 
At times the proctors and team members exceeded the students themselves;
Orientation  - 41 members
Type 3 hike – 41 members
Type 2 Hike – 49 members
UNO – 57 members
 
UNO 2013USAR, MRG, Bike Team, and Tracking contributed resource members or introduced the skills of the resource to the academies.  Leaders of Search Management and Hasty were contributors to the academies and UNO.
 
No academy can progress without the contribution of team members.  To each and every one of you, the Academy staff wishes to say, “ Thank you!” I hope to see all of you at the academies of 2014.
 
And for those members who have just graduated, remember the gift you were given by the generations that came before you. Consider paying it forward in 2014.

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!