The Marin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit started as Explorer Post 74 in 1966, oriented toward ecology and outdoor education. In 1968, we were the first scouting group in Marin to accept females. During the mid 1970’s, several members attended a scouting conference in Washington State and learned about explorer search and rescue. They returned and quickly convinced the rest of the group to change the focus to search and rescue.
The team was first sponsored in 1976 by the Red Cross. During that time we assisted with the Orphan Airlift at Hamilton Field of Vietnamese children and many first aid events. In 1978, sponsorship of the team was changed to the Sheriff’s Department, and the unit began to respond to its first search and rescue missions.
In 1988, the unit found itself floundering with few members and realized it needed to revamp the program to keep up with the greater demands. In late 1988, with fifteen new members, we began our efforts to make the team more professional. We revised and expanded our training with the help of CAL-ESAR, Sonoma SAR, and several influential, outside instructors. We also responded on our first mutual aid search to Sonoma County in December 1988.
Today the unit has 70 members and is well known throughout California as being an excellent SAR team, capable of carrying out a wide spectrum of missions from high altitude rescues to searching for victims of predator abductions. Youth members have made the vast majority of life-saving finds in recent history and remain an important asset to our team. The unit enjoys the strong support of the Sheriff’s Office, ensuring that the team has the best equipment and training available.
We estimate that over 800 people have served their community through this unit since the late 1960’s. Dozens of people’s lives have been saved by team members. Many more people have been saved from great hardship and pain. We have in our archives over a hundred letters from families and allied agencies thanking us for a job well done. Every member who has been a part of the team has contributed to our success.
During the early years with the Sheriff’s Office, the unit responded to several large SAR missions, including an overnight search for two missing children in the hills above Inverness and several challenging incidents searching for the victims of the trailside killer between 1979 and 1981. The unit also was heavily involved in disaster operations during the great flood of 1982 and lesser flooding disasters in ’83, ’85 and ’86. During this time, we also assisted in investigations for numerous evidence searches.
In 1989 we responded to 18 missions, three times more than in 1988. We began to get recognition of our new capabilities, both from agencies within Marin and surrounding counties. While the youth program continued to be central to the team, we recruited additional adult members and established a new management structure to provide more continuity for the expanded mission of the unit.