Foley: GCSAR seeks new members |

Foley: GCSAR seeks new members

Last year's recruits practice teamwork by carrying a patient with the litter wheel on easy terrain.
Photo Courtesy of Greg Foley |

Have you ever considered being a search and rescue volunteer?

Over the next month, Grand County Search and Rescue (GCSAR) will be recruiting potential new members. We are looking for a small group of individuals who have a desire to help the team with our mission to help people who get into trouble in the backcountry. The people who need help most often are hikers, but we get a fair share of hunters, ATV riders, skiers, mountaineers and horsemen. We respond to accidents, injuries, illness and death. Anytime the emergency is out of reach of the local fire or EMS services GCSAR gets the call.

In Colorado the County Sheriff is responsible, by statute, for search and rescue. Sheriff Schroetlin depends on our volunteer organization to accomplish that responsibility and supports our efforts both financially and logistically. We have been providing search and rescue services in Grand County for over 30 years and do not charge our subjects for the service.

The only way we can pull this off is by having a crew of trained, professional volunteers that are willing and able to respond day or night, in any weather with the right gear and plan of action. Not every member can respond to every mission so we need a full bench to ensure we have enough players to field a team.

Our goal this spring is to selectively recruit and train about a dozen new field members that we feel have the commitment, drive and desire to make our team better and help us save lives. It’s an ongoing crusade to keep our roster full because every year we lose volunteers to new jobs, family commitments and life changes. That’s normal here in Grand County and a situation we have learned to deal with. We bring new people on every year, then it takes about a year to train them up to a point where they are fully integrated and an effective player. Discounting the first year, average longevity on the team is maybe four years. Of the 28 people we recruited last year, only 13 are still with us. Only about 12 of our 45 members have been on the team more than five years.

We are looking for individuals that have basic outdoor skills, are physically fit and who are able to respond on missions. Advanced skiing, rock climbing or mountaineering skills are a plus, but are not required. Looking towards the future, new members should be able to project a commitment of at least three years. We don’t expect a promise, but a likelihood that we won’t spend a year on training without a return on our investment.

Members are required to attend a certain number of trainings and missions. In addition, each member is expected to help out with ancillary duties such as equipment maintenance, project workgroups or administration. We have 30-50 callouts per year and train weekly. You can figure 120 hours a year, 10 hours a month as a minimum time commitment, although many members volunteer much more. Volunteers need to have a plan to sidestep work and family commitments when the pager goes off. Work and family come first, but if you can’t respond on missions, what’s the point?

Training is provided in-house and no cost. We train on Wednesday nights and once or twice a month on a weekend morning. New members will encounter a steep learning curve that includes first aid, survival, navigation, communications and patient transport. Ongoing training in technical rescue, avalanche rescue and ground search includes a wide variety of skill sets. Team members spend way more time on training than on actual field missions.

Each person provides their own field pack and personal gear – if you hike or camp or ski you probably have most of what you need. You will end up spending some money on gear as you dial in your kit.

If you are still interested, here’s how it works. Contact our Field Director, Paul Robertson (, or myself ( by email. Ask any pressing questions and request an application and information packet. Fill out the application and send it back. If your application looks good we will arrange an interview with our selection committee in late June. Applicants that are selected will be invited to start attending trainings in July, including some specific new member trainings, with the goal of attaining Field Ready status by the end of August.

GCSAR wants you to consider volunteering your valuable time if you have the desire and commitment to use your skills in a team environment to help people in trouble. I guarantee you will get the opportunity to save a life.

Greg Foley is a member of Grand County Search and Rescue and has been a mountain rescue volunteer for 36 years. He can be reached by email at The GCSAR website can be found at or on Facebook/GCSAR.

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