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Search and rescue team members and trainees learn techniques for carrying a Stokes litter and “rescuing” SAR volunteer Kim Braatz on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at the Mount Emily Recreation Area near La Grande. The exercise was part of the field day training and required for certification for the nearly 25 new members.

LA GRANDE — The search and rescue teams from Union, Umatilla and Wallowa counties gained almost 25 newly certified members this week following two weekends of training and practice held in La Grande and at the Mount Emily Recreation Area.

Wallowa County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue gained 11 new team members and the Union County and Umatilla County Sheriffs collectively added more than a dozen to their certified teams. All SAR members are volunteers.

The training, led by Union County SAR Coordinator Nick Vora, included instruction and practice in basic survival, map reading and navigating, knot tying, communications, tracking and understanding the behavior of people who were lost. The field exercises included demonstrations of search techniques and team coordination during rescues.

Experienced volunteers from Union, Umatilla and Wallowa counties’ SAR units provided instruction and coaching for the training.

“The instructors all are a wealth of knowledge and this is an amazing team. I am proud to be a part of it,” said new Wallowa County SAR team member Jennifer Harmon.

The newly-certified SAR members bring a variety of skills to the already-robust organizations, including nursing and radio communications, as well as expert skiing and back-country experience.

“It’s a great organization of dedicated volunteers,” Wallowa County SAR Training Coordinator Jim Akenson said. “The new members will make it even better.”

The new cohort brings the total number of Wallowa County SAR volunteers to about 50, he said.

“That’s pretty extraordinary for a small community,” Akenson said.

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