The Search and Rescue Member of the Year goes to that person who best exemplifies the commitment to the SAR Mission. The SAR program has a philosophy that drives the program. This is best stated as “Mission over Me.” The foundation of this motto states that all decisions and actions our members perform are for the SAR mission and the Office of the Sheriff first. Individual consideration comes second to the mission.
It’s like a broken record to say that trying to narrow down a group of 200 to the individual who contributed most is tough. Precisely for that reason, we have also recognized two SAR Members of the Year for 2011: John Banuelos and Chris Nichols. John’s contributions to the team over the past year have been outstanding. John was promoted to the Admin Lieutenant on the Command Staff this year. One of his many talents is producing spreadsheets that rank team members’ training participation, search responses, etc. He produces multi-page spreadsheets of data. One thing is consistent with these reports; John always ranks #1 in every category. I mentioned this in my speech at the banquet, and on Monday morning the Muir Station Commander was in my office asking if John could develop a spreadsheet for tracking staffing levels throughout patrol (Sorry John).
John was an incredible asset in shepherding our latest academy through their training, constantly counseling them, and shaping their mindset to excel on this team.
John contributed over 1200 hours of service to the SAR team in 2011. He participated in multiple resources, and responded to almost every search callout. His integrity and commitment are widely recognized. His dedication to the mission, exemplary service and ability to put up with the full-time staff has earned him multiple nicknames, but his latest moniker is one he truly earned: SAR Member of the Year.
Chris earned this recognition for his contributions in 2011, and more importantly, for his body of work throughout his SAR career. He is a high speed, low drag operator, and a proven leader. He does not seek recognition for his actions. He truly is a “mission over me” member.
Chris is the Operations Lieutenant on the SAR team. In that capacity he has the responsibility of managing all operational aspects of the program—no small task in a group this size. His leadership and communications skills make him an incredible asset to the team. He has outstanding management and incident command talents which separate him from most search managers in any program.
In addition to his SAR duties, Chris is a Reserve Deputy, and in 2011 contributed over 600 hours to the Office of the Sheriff. Congratulations to this year’s two SAR Members of the Year, Chris Nichols and John Banuelos.