...that others may live

Commander’s Corner

Commander’s Corner January – June, 2016

Hello and welcome to the Commander’s Corner!

2016 is looking like another great year for the West Valley team. We started the year by presenting our annual awards to recognize those who have gone above and beyond throughout the prior year. As you can imagine, it is a difficult task to select a few when all of our members do so much for the team, the Sheriff’s Department and our community.

The 2015 Coordinator’s Choice Award was presented to Scott Leising, (class of 2013 and our Administrative Officer), for his efforts in recruiting and for implementing the new accounting system for volunteer stats. Greg Umberg, class of 2000, received the Commander’s Choice Award. Greg was in charge of the committee which recruited our new Support Members. Over 50 people attended the orientation meeting and twelve have since joined our team. The SAR Member of the Year Award is chosen by the Board from nominations by the team at large. Ed Nemeth, who transferred from the San Gorgonio Team, was the 2015 SAR Member of the Year. Ed has assisted with numerous projects and attended 74% of all the missions in 2015. Congratulations, great job and a big thank you to Scott, Greg and Ed!

As mentioned above, we began to recruit specifically for command post support team members for the first time in the team’s history. These individuals will specialize in all command post functions like mapping, radio communications, documentation, transportation and staging of equipment. Russ Anderson, Dean Kawasawa, Robert Gates, John Gatturna, April Abdouch, Oscar Garcia, Darrell Wilson, Bill Dietzen, Tim Peters, Tim Adams, Cliff Heck and Randy Gaston joined the team in February and started their training shortly thereafter. Their training will conclude early this summer and we are all looking forward to their assistance on missions.

Since we finally had some snow in early 2016, the basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) was held. John Bishop, Bernard Cruz, Chuck Kurtek, James Hunt, Jason Ravenscroft, Dave Burtle, Dave Sperling, Roland Fox, Chris Ruiz, Jonathan Rollins, Michele Walsh and Scott Leising passed the rigorous, multi-day course. BMC includes avalanche safety, beacon search, ice ax arrest, belay and escape and many other important alpine rescue topics. Congratulations everyone!

Team members Shane Bearly and Tim Staples were presented their 5-year service pins in March. Pedro Ligorria was presented with his 10-year pin. Thanks to you guys for your service to our team and the County.

2016 is our year to re-energize our presence in social media. Our Facebook page now includes not only current activities of the team, but interesting bios on some of our members and Ten Essentials Tuesday where we highlight the equipment needed for backcountry travel. West Valley is also on Twitter and Instagram too. Please join us on your social media of choice for some great information. We have almost 6,000 friends on Facebook and we would enjoy being your friend too. Please join our friends and stay current with the West Valley team.

In early March, the team joined all the other Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) teams in the California Region to recertify on their alpine rescue accreditation. The team travelled to the Mammoth Lakes area and spent the day building rescue rope systems, locating avalanche beacons and performing medical assessments. The team passed all sections of the evaluation and made their way home that evening.

Throughout the first half of 2016, West Valley has been called on 27 missions.

  • January had five missions of which four were overdue hikers. Cold and wet conditions made these searches even more challenging.

  • Six more missions occurred in February. Several of these incidents were falls in icy conditions resulting and very serious injuries and fatalities. Sheriff’s Aviation was instrumental in being able to complete these missions.

  • March had a single mission for an overdue hiker in the Ranch Cucamonga foothill area.

  • Seven more missions took place in April. The team was called to assist on two County-wide searches. The balance of the missions were for lost or overdue hikers in the Mt. Baldy area.

  • May had three missions. One was a County-wide evidence search in the Barstow area. The other two were lost hikers; one in Lytle Creek and the other on the Baldy summit

  • June had a total of five missions. Two of them were County-wide incidents, both in the Twin Peaks area. One mission was a call out during our monthly meeting with a car over the side requiring a technical rope rescue.

The remainder of 2016 will see more exciting things to come. Our Support Member crew will be qualified to attend missions. We will also be recruiting for field SAR members this summer. The orientation meeting will be in August and applications are being accepted now. See the Join Us page for more information. In 2017, we will be hosting the annual Mountain Rescue Association Cal Region reaccreditation for search techniques. The team will be busy making plans to accommodate the 26 member teams to be evaluated.

Be Safe

Tom