Volunteers...heroes all! I applaud the efforts of these great volly units and snap a hearty salute!
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. (AP) - They're actually a group of unsung
heroes, who do their highly specialized work without any fanfare
and it is rare that anyone ever learns of their exploits.
They are the men, women and dogs of Sonoran Search and Rescue, a
local team of volunteers that, as the name implies, is called upon
frequently to find persons who have lost their way in the mountains
and deserts of Pinal County.
The team is comprised of 13 individuals, consisting of four
certified canine units and four man trackers - people experienced
in finding and following a person's trail.
The term unsung is appropriate because, despite several
successful high-profile rescue cases, the group's name rarely has
been mentioned. Credit usually goes to the sheriff's department,
but that's all right with the team members.
"We're all volunteers," said Jack Brashier, one of the man
trackers. "We don't get paid, and we don't get any awards or
rewards, but there's no better high that you can get than when you
find a person ... when you find that little girl and put her back
into her mother's arms."
"If somebody gets lost, we go out and find them," said Louie
Villa, unit coordinator.
Besides the sheriff's department and the Gila River Police, the
team has done work for other law enforcement agencies including the
FBI. Sonoran Rescue also has done cadaver and evidence searches.
The team's canine units are particularly suited for desert
searches since the dogs are trained to air scent.
"They work off the wind and the scent that's coming off the
human body," said Marla Villa, one of the dog handlers. "As a
person walks through the desert, and even if they're just sitting,
skin cells are falling off their bodies. The cells are called skin
rafts, and those rafts carry your scent."
Before setting the dogs out on a search, they are draped with a
shabrac, a bright colored vest that identifies the canines as
search dogs so they are not mistaken for wild animals.
"They can all do searches," Marla said. "It's a natural
thing. You just have to teach them how to do it. Physically, it's
better to have a medium to large dog. That way, they can cover more
ground. You don't want a dog with short legs because they get worn
out too soon. You also don't want a dog with a short, pug nose,
because they don't have as keen a sense of smell as the ones with
long snouts like the shepherds, labs and golden retrievers."
"Our team isn't just comprised of dogs and handlers," Brashier
said. "We started out having a reputation for well-trained search
dogs, but over the years we have established ourselves as expert
The man trackers carry long walking sticks that are marked at
various distances along the shafts. The sticks are used to measure
a victim's footprints and to determine the length of the person's
stride, which is used to analyze the victim's physical and mental
According to Brashier, clear footprints and a long stride
indicate that the victim is in good shape and may even be trying
not to be found.
"That is often the case with mentally challenged individuals,"
Brashier said. "They're adults in body but have the mind of a
child, so they are easily frightened and can mistakenly believe
that the searchers mean to do them harm."
On the other hand, Villa noted that short, blurred steps can
indicate that someone is badly injured or seriously ill. It is
truly an ominous sign if the trackers begin to see discarded
clothing along the trail, because that is an indication that the
victim is becoming dehydrated and more than likely delirious.
The team is able to respond to a call to do a search in a fairly
short time. Most of the members have day jobs, and typically the
sheriff's department will put in a call to Villa's pager, and he
will send an alert to all those able to respond. That is when a
search must be done during the week, in daylight hours.
"Most of our searches are done at night or on the weekends,"
Villa said. "That's because most people venture out into the
desert on the weekends. Those who end up missing during the week,
usually aren't reported missing until early that evening. And in
that case, most of our members are able to make it to the search
Team members typically carry the same equipment - water, radios,
first aid kits and a variety of tools, especially forceps or
tweezers for removing cactus needles. Brashier says that he carries
a minimum of four flashlights for night work, and he has
standardized all his equipment to accept double A batteries, so he
doesn't have to carry a variety of spares.
Team members come from all over Pinal County. The Villas live in
Maricopa, for example, and Brashier lives in Casa Grande.
New members go through a probation period of 90 days, during
which they are required to make three training sessions or
meetings, and afterward all that is required is that they show up
once every three months to make certain that their skills are up to
the required standards.
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Thread: Sar Team
06-06-2002, 06:56 AM #1
Sar TeamProudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones
*Gathering Crust Since 1968*
On the web at www.section2wildfire.com
06-06-2002, 12:13 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jan 2000
- Somewhere in the Backcountry...
There are many unsung heroes out there. Doing good deeds with little fanfare - until the big story breaks.
Sometimes the visibility is nice (interest in joining jumps - too bad it is often the folks you don't need) other times bad (we should make all these people pay for rescues).
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