Success Through Competence: 2012 Was a Great Year

As we have closed out 2012, I want to personally thank each and every team member for his/her contributions to the continued growth and success of the team. We continue to build on a world-class organization and make it better and better. As a manager of a program, one could not hope for more. The SAR program is a huge asset to the Office of the Sheriff and the citizens of our community. They are very appreciative of your combined efforts.

In 2012 the team had some amazing accomplishments. Some significant statistics from 2012 are as follows:

  • COCOSAR members contributed 41,500 hours of service.
  • The team fulfilled 57 missions (includes both searches and medical details), 39 of which were in-county missions and 18 were out of county mutual-aid missions.
  • The team assisted 29 different public-safety agencies throughout the state of California in 2012.

These numbers do not tell the whole story of this team. The commitment and focus to the mission everyone has is directly responsible for why the team continues to grow and get better. Your individual responses to callouts, no matter what time they come, has been incredible.

As a team, we have been able to get plenty of resources on scene when it counts. We consistently bring the largest contingent of searchers to whichever county we’re responding to. In turn, we are providing an incredible service to the missing people we assist in looking for.

For me the most significant aspect of our ability to respond with big numbers is not about having the most SAR members at any given search. It is the fact that we are consistently regarded as extremely competent and professional when we arrive. We have a large team, but most importantly we have a well-trained professional team that continues to make a difference whereever we respond.

As an example; at two out of county searches in December, as soon as we arrived, we were given large divisions over which to take management. Allied agencies trust that we know what we’re doing.

Why are we seen as one of the best? Every team member has bought into our training requirements, our fitness requirements and the minimum standards set for the team. These standards are above and beyond what CALEMA requires to operate in the SAR environment.

This is not a knock on any other team. Many teams have as high, and in some cases, higher standards. What we have is incredible numbers to go along with incredibly competent operators.

You dedicate a lot of time and personal capital to train and be a part of this team. It has paid off countless times this past year.

Early in the year we conducted a huge search for a suicidal subject in Crockett. We developed a plan, had a strategy and executed it extremely well. It resulted in us locating the decedent in a drain pipe near the edge of the search area.

We fielded 120 people that day. Most large-scale mutual-aid searches are not that big. This subject would not have been found quickly without that combination of size and SAR competency.

In April, we were requested by investigations to clear a marijuana grow in the Los Vaqueros watershed. Our fitness requirements and ability to work in difficult terrain greatly assisted in quickly clearing this area with no injuries.

In August, we cleared another significant pot grow in Oakley. This is not glamorous, but our assistance to Sheriff’s Office investigation in both instances saved valuable man hours and accomplished the request quickly.

In September, when CHP Officer Kenyon Youngstrom was killed in the line of duty, team members immediately responded for incident support and around-the-clock support at the vigil outside the coroner’s office. This situation is definitely outside the realm of SAR, but the willingness to do whatever is asked in support of the Sheriff’s Office is not. This support, while behind the scenes and not very glamorous, was a huge benefit to the grieving family and coworkers of the fallen officer.

Then the month of October hit us. We had a total of 13 missions for the month. This was a very high op tempo for the team. Yet we were able to consistently get there and make a difference. We sent 25 on a Tuesday morning to Solano for a missing person. We had four separate Type 1 requests. We sent strong groups of people and were instrumental in the rescue and recovery of multiple victims that month. It was a perfect storm of conditions and the SAR Team met every request with enthusiasm, commitment and competence.

I guarantee our calls for service will be higher this year. Our reputation with the state and counties we assist grew exponentially with the service we provided this past year. In 2013, we will continue to expand the depth and competence of our team. We’ll continue to train hard and respond when called. And when we are called, we will be competent, confident and not cocky.

We must balance being a large and very capable team with being humble and not arrogant when working with other programs. It is OK to take pride in this team’s excellence, but it is better to be competent, prepared and humble when working with other teams. It is going to be a great year.