The Marin County Sheriff’s Search and
Rescue Unit started as Boy Scout Explorer Post 74 in 1966, oriented toward
ecology and outdoor education. In 1971, we were the first scouting group in
Marin to accept females. During the mid 1970s, 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 120 members and is well known throughout
California as an excellent SAR team, with specialties including search management,
technical rescue, planning,
and Type 1 teams, which are capable of responding in the most challenging
terrain. Marin Search and Rescue is a leader in using the most recent
technology in search management and planning. The team is highly advanced in
using SARTopo and GPS tracking. E-Bikes are also an innovative addition that
the team has used with great success to quickly search and disperse teams along
trails. The team’s Unit Leader, Michael St. John, is an expert in searching for
abducted children, and teaches a class on that subject to SAR teams around the
state and the country. In 2004, when there weren’t as many searches locally,
counties in the Sierras and up north were having more challenging and technical
searches, and so the team decided to establish a Mountain Rescue Team. It took
two years to pass all the testing to be qualified by the Mountain Rescue
Association. In 2006, after two years of training and passing three tests,
Marin became one of the elite teams of the MRA. Marin is the only team in the
country that has youth members as part of its Mountain Rescue Team.
Youth members are a vital part of Marin’s team. High school
students as young as 14 are eligible to join the team and are full members
alongside our adult members, filling management and leadership roles as well as
being indispensable as searchers. Youth members have made many 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 more than 1,000 people have served their
community through this unit since the late 1960’s. Many dozens of lives have
been saved by team members. Many more people have been saved from great
hardship and pain. We have in our archives more than 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.