Verde SAR member Al Cornell receives Unit of the Year plague on behalf the group. Many of the groupís 40 members were also present at the ceremony. Courtesy Photo
Search and Rescue teams save countless hikers each year all around the nation. In Arizona, one of the busiest SAR teams is in the Verde Valley, where they frequently are called to the Sedona area to rescue tourists who don't understand what venturing into the desert wilderness can mean.
On April 16, 2011, the Arizona Search and Rescue Coordinators, on behalf of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management, presented the "Don Hornecker" Coordinator of the Year award to Deputy Roial Armstrong, and the "Al Schoenstene" Unit of the Year award to Verde Search and Rescue members. The awards ceremony took place during a statewide conference in Heber, Arizona.
The press release from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office stated: "Deputy Armstrong is well deserving of this award as he is considered an expert in the search and rescue field. Armstrong not only coordinates many search missions yearly, but also provides ongoing instruction and training to YCSO search and rescue members assigned to the many specialized units. As part of his concern for educating the public, Armstrong makes a special effort to share safety recommendations with community groups and the YCSO Media Coordinator. This allows residents and visitors alike to benefit from his knowledge and expertise with hopes of avoiding similar situations by those exploring the wilderness.
Dedicated volunteers from the Verde Search and Rescue Unit were honored with the Unit of the Year award for their past search and rescue work. This team remains consistently busy as the majority of search missions occur in the Verde basin area of Yavapai County. It is these dedicated volunteers, along the members of other YCSO rescue units, that save multiple lives every year in search and rescue missions."
The release gave further information on the group's role: "The Arizona Search and Rescue Coordinators provide ongoing standarization, training and techniques developed by the Sheriff's SAR Coordinators, cooperating agencies and volunteers. Arizona SAR Coordinators estimate there are about 600 missions in the State of Arizona each year. With Yavapai County benefiting from such beautiful high desert wilderness areas popular for exploring, it is critical to have specially trained rescue teams and coordinators available to find those lost and missing. This part of the State also presents unique topography ranging from flat and open areas to high peaks and vistas, requiring highly trained personnel to execute these missions."
We all are fortunate that so many highly trained and dedicated professionals are willing to go out in all kinds of weather, anytime of the day or night, when a call to rescue comes in. A simple "thank you" is not nearly enough to say to all Search and Rescue teams, but I offer it anyway.
Maybe the best way to thank these brave folks is to better prepare ourselves, to pay more attention and to engage our brains as well as our feet when hiking, so we don't get lost or stuck on a cliff face in the first place. That way they can save their strength to rescue those who couldn't avoid their situation, either through unexpected natural phenomena or accidents.