Three Eastern Sierra residents were recognized earlier this month for their outstanding service to the public – a service that not only represents the act of going above and beyond, but can quite literally mean the difference between life and death for those they serve.
Steve Case, Heidi Vetter and Glenn Goryl were presented with special honors during the Mono County Sheriff Search and Rescue Team Annual Awards Dinner, held Dec. 14. The 2013 honorees were presented with laser engraved plaques at the dinner in the team’s new building.
According to Mono Sheriff Public Information Officer Jennifer Hansen, the SAR Team is a non-profit organization comprised of volunteers dedicated to saving lives. “They do searches and rescues at any time, in any weather, for as long as it takes, for free,” she explained. “Each year, the team honors members for their individual excellence and public service.”
According to Hansen, the team’s highest honor, election to status as a Lifetime Member, is only rarely conferred by SAR to a rescue member who has made “unusual, faithful and regular contributions to the team and to the welfare of victims over a significant number of years.”
This status was awarded to Case at the annual awards dinner.
Case joined SAR in 1992, and has the longest tenure of any current member. Since 1995, Hansen said records show Case has participated in 175 search or rescue missions, 161 trainings and 175 meetings, for a total of 508 team events.
“This is an enormous voluntary commitment of time and talent to the county and the team,” Hansen said, noting that Case has faithfully served the team in a wide variety of roles, including board member and as trainer for new members. “He is very versatile and dependable, and has consistently been eager to accept difficult field assignments in any weather.”
Two awards are given by the team each year to honor members who have excelled.
According to Hansen, the team’s primary honor for achievement is the Pete Schoerner Rescue Member of the Year award – named in memory of a beloved teammate who was killed in an ice climbing accident in 1996.
Vetter was named the Pete Schoerner Rescue Member of the Year for 2013. She serves the team as a member of the Board of Directors and as an operations leader. She participated in 35 team events in 2013.
“Since 2008, Heidi has served the team and Mono County on 177 team events, including 48 rescues and searches,” Hansen said. “She has a wide variety of leading and organizing skills, and is a key player in everything the team does.”
New members in training are called Candidate Members, and must undergo training, practice and testing in 18 skill categories before being considered for advancement to rescue member. Examples of these skills, Hansen said, include first aid and victim care, tracking, technical rescue, mountain navigation, helicopter operations, and skill with electronic aids such as computers, radios, avalanche transceivers and GPS receivers. “Completion of all requirements takes a lot of dedication and faithfulness over a period that is typically a year or more,” she said.
Mono SAR honors one candidate member each year with the Rick Mosher Candidate Member of the Year Award. According to Hansen, Mosher is the only team member to have died in the line of duty and was killed while searching in a small airplane that crashed during an operation on Aug. 15, 1979.
This year the team selected Goryl as the Rick Mosher Candidate Member of the Year.
“Glenn has been very active and faithful in his training and rescue operations, and has devoted a lot of personal time to team projects and public awareness,” Hansen said. “He completed all his training requirements for rescue member in less than the minimum time.”
Since beginning his training in April of 2013, he has participated in 53 team events and 19 rescues and searches.