I can talk Search And Rescue (SAR) all day long. All day, every day. I’ll apologize upfront if I go on and on (and on and on and on…). I love SAR!!!
Picture this, if you will: A frightened twenty-something, an intimidating world of possibility yet to explore, and a hard determination to right the wrongs of the world. She’s standing outside the giant building, her application clutched in her fist, as she deliberates her future. She has two choices, neither of them easy; accept the role society gave her--she’s too soft, too fragile to be anything but taken care of--or give stereotypes the finger by marching up to the door, throwing it open, and fighting an uphill battle of being in a profession dominated by men.
The choice may not be easy, but then again, she didn’t do anything the easy way.
Okay, I have to admit. I may have embellished that a bit. I mean, come on… It’s what I do! Here’s the real story: I originally started in SAR when I lived in Washington State about 15 years ago. I wanted to be a deputy and went to the county sheriff’s office to see what I needed to do. There I spotted a flyer on the board asking for applicants to join SAR. The sheriff is the commander-in-chief of every SAR unit and runs the council (not just in WA State--it’s a jurisdiction thing). Since there were no openings with the sheriff’s office, I interviewed for SAR instead, hoping it gave me an in the next time a position opened on the roster.
Now, I need to point out something...Some smaller SAR units are volunteer only--if you have a pulse, they’ll take you, they are that desperate for volunteers. No background checks. No psych evals. No physicals. If you apply, you’re in. No training. No confirmation of your gear when called out. Nothing. If you ask me, that’s more of a liability than not having enough members! But I digress…
The SAR unit I applied to also served as reserve deputies, so I had to go through background checks, evals, extensive training on self-defense, weapons handling, etc. Once I passed all my training and was sworn in as a reserve deputy, I served as a cadet in my SAR unit for 3 months before being fully admitted into the unit. After a few years, I applied for a promotion to SAR command, got it, and served in the ops and planning post, as well as public relations. Basically, I took the orders from my commander and carried them out by mapping routes and putting teams in the field. I then got the awesome job of dealing with the press. Lucky me! For this reason alone you’ll notice a common theme in my books--I dislike the press immensely. If they can’t overdramatize an event to make it so ridiculously sensationalized, they tend to take, shall we say, “artistic liberties” on the details, much like I did introducing my story. But again, I digress...
When I moved to Montana, I joined the local SAR. While still under the direction of the sheriff, this SAR unit doesn’t serve as reserve deputies, so I only needed to transfer my concealed weapon’s permit to the state and then I was in. I then took several NIMS/ICS (National Incident Management System / Incident Command System) training courses to become an IC (Incident Commander). Nothing is more gratifying than having the power to reunite a person with loved ones. Also, nothing is more heartbreaking than being powerless and having to call in the chaplain for grief counseling.
So that’s my SAR story. Though now inactive, I can still be called up at a moment’s notice. The SAR team here in Montana know if they need me, I’ll be there. It’s a passion of mine, as comes through in my writing. Do I have any characters based off those I’ve worked with in SAR? Abso-freakin-lutely. It’s where I got the idea for my entire TREX series. It starts with Kathryn “Kat” Davis, the owner of K-SAR, a contractor for TREX. She runs the show, serving as CEO of her company as well as IC on searches. She has red hair, skin so pale it’s practically see-through, and no problem speaking her mind. In short--she’s me. :-) She also drives a yellow X-terra in the book, which is what I drove when I wrote the story.
SAR finds people. TREX finds whatever’s been lost. While SAR is sanctioned and run by a government entity, TREX has no restrictions and unlimited resources. It’s why I started TREX. After the struggles I went through with all the limitations and red tape on every single search, I wanted to create an agency without any of that. The freedom to step in and do whatever it takes to get the job done. No matter the circumstances. No matter the cost.
I hope I didn’t go on and on (and on and on and on…) too much! As you can see, I love geeking out about SAR, about TREX, and about what drives my passion for both! Thank you so much for letting me share my experiences with you. As a final parting comment: if anyone is looking for gratifying volunteer work, I highly encourage you all to look into your local Search and Rescue organizations. SAR could always use more help. THANK YOU!!!