CHS students help in Mt. St. Helens Search & Rescue
On Tuesday, August 14th, a call-out reached the Cleveland High School students who are a part of Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Search & Rescue (MCSOSAR) program.
Search teams had already been looking for days for an Ohio man lost on Mt. St. Helens, and backup was needed.
Five of the nine CHS students who deployed by that request to Mt. St. Helens at that time got together recently at a neighborhood café near the high school to discuss what it's like to be part of the search-and-rescue team, and how they were instrumental in the final rescue effort.
Ella Jones, CHS Team Leader of the group, reported, "A sheriff's deputy who works with MCSOSAR called me [on August 14th at about 4 p.m.], and then I called the CHS team president Bella Mounsey. Nine of our team made it out to the regional MCSOSAR office on S.E. 122nd Avenue in approximately 30 minutes." The team then left immediately for Mt. St. Helens.
At one point, out in the field, the team of CHS student volunteers was asked to clear a space for a rescue helicopter to land after the lost man was located by MCSOSAR. "We were at the trailhead. Another team found the hiker, and we hiked to be there with him. We were asked to clear a space for a helicopter landing, but it was very rocky, and we couldn't make it big enough," recalled Mounsey.
"When the helicopter finally landed about a third of a mile from where we were, we had a litter and were well rested, so we carried him down the trail on the litter to the helicopter," added Austin Denning, a CHS team member. The MCSOSAR adults were impressed.
CHS member Rosa Christen commented, "It was very gratifying when he was found."
There were evidently a great many bees in the area, and the lost man ate bees after he killed them, in order to survive six days. In the end, however, he had fifty bee stings because there were so many flying around. Berries provided water, and the man's parents said they thought their 40 year-old son's old Boy Scout skills, physical fitness, and training as a nurse, helped him survive.
Approximately 55 youths and 45 adults throughout the region comprise the multiple teams that take part in the non-profit MCSOSAR volunteer program. All MCSOSAR high-school-aged teams operate independently of their school, and are youth-led.
At Cleveland High, Bella Mounsey oversees the training year and the missions. Student Gabriel Chatkupt tells THE BEE that "very few other organizations allow students to have as much responsibility as does the MCSOSAR program." Participating students can be as young as fourteen – but all CHS students on the Mt. St. Helens rescue were seventeen-year old seniors.
All certified unit members start by taking a nine-month training program beginning each September. Weekly classroom-style meetings are followed by field-training outings, held one weekend every month. Members learn 48-hour survival skills in addition to navigation, medical, communication, and search skills. They take part in eight training outings a year. Building self-confidence and leadership skills is a key part of training and deployment.
These Cleveland High students go on approximately fifty searches a year, both wilderness and urban. Sometimes they're given some notice, by being called out the night before, to show up at 7 a.m. – but sometimes there's no notice, and they may be called at 2 a.m. to deploy immediately.
Recruitment of new members is on hold for this year, but training is ongoing. Any student wanting to learn search-and-rescue skills is encouraged to contact MCSOSAR. The students report that they tell other students that if they are passionate about volunteering, being outdoors, learning survival skills, and finding out more about themselves – they will find this program challenging and fulfilling.