The mission of Verde Search & Rescue Posse, Inc. (VSAR) is to assist the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office (YCSO) in search and rescue activities requested by YCSO. VSAR provides state-certified personnel who are prepared to respond quickly, are trained, and are properly equipped to conduct efficient search and rescue operations. In addition, VSAR provides support to YCSO for other activities requiring additional personnel, such as fire and flood evacuations, evidence searches, and other assignments.
Becoming a posse member of VSAR and the YCSO Search and Rescue team is a serious commitment. The reward for the posse member is to become a member of a high-functioning and professional search and rescue team that provides life-saving capabilities to YCSO and members of the community.
Since 1986, VSAR has provided skilled, trained, and motivated search and rescue volunteer support to YCSO. Before this, there was no search and rescue capability in the eastern half of Yavapai County (the east side of the Mingus Mountain Range). VSAR was formed in early 1986 in response to the growing need to establish and develop a rapid life-saving response to cover the highly visited Verde Valley and Red Rock Country, including Sedona, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Camp Verde, Cornville, Rimrock, and the Village of Oak Creek.
VSAR members should be comfortable with the outdoors and with hiking in flat and mountainous terrain in all types of weather. Basic navigation skills, and the ability to utilize compass, GPS devices, and navigation phone apps are essential. Knowledge of trails and hiking areas within the Verde Valley is useful. VSAR members are assessed on three criteria, technical ability (navigation, phone app, and GPS device usage), physical ability (hiking and stamina), and compatibility within the VSAR team (ability to work within a team as a fully contributing team member).
VSAR supplies posse members with safety and communications equipment, whereas the posse member is responsible for supplying basic search supplies. VSAR supplies members with orange uniform shirts, safety helmets, severe weather jackets, radios, first-aid kits, window identification stickers, magnetic door YCSO insignia, flagging tape, and trail maps. Posse members supply their own backpack, GPS, hiking clothing and footwear, flashlights, batteries, liquids and food for searches, a smart cell phone, and other equipment as generally needed for hiking and potential overnight stays in the wilderness.
There are additional purchase requirements if you are a member of a specialty unit. For example, 4x4 unit members supply their own vehicles and safety equipment. Mountain Bike Unit members supply their own bikes.
VSAR Posse meets once per month to review news and updates, review rescue missions and learnings, and review selected trainings of the month. There is usually at least one training per month for the entire posse. This, for example, may be an orientation hike to a local area where rescues are common, or a refresher for land navigation training. In addition, VSAR training occurs several times per month within each specialty unit. Training is conducted by the most experienced members within VSAR and by outside experts.
VSAR members are available to assist YCSO 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. One-third of VSAR callouts are at night. VSAR missions occur in the types of weather prevalent in northern Arizona, ranging from freezing temperatures with snow, to sweltering 110-degree days in full sun.
Search and Rescue missions are strenuous. The minimal fitness requirement for a VSAR member is the ability to walk 2 miles, with a 25-lb backpack, in 60 minutes. However, a typical mission may involve hikes/mountain bike rides of 5-10 miles, in flat or mountainous terrain, day or night, in all types of weather for ground, K9, and mountain bike teams.
The minimal requirements for active VSAR membership are 50 hours per year of missions and training, a minimum of 6 callouts per year, to attend 4 of 11 monthly meetings, and 4 general trainings per year. However, while this is the minimum, the average VSAR member participation is 20 callouts and 350 hours per year (including missions and training).
VSAR members can be requested to assist YCSO 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. VSAR receives 80-100 callouts per year, 7-9 callouts per month. Sometimes we will receive 2-3 callouts in one day, at other times we may have no callouts for 2 weeks. One-third of our callouts are at night.
VSAR members must be 18 years of age, a US citizen, a resident of Yavapai County or live outside the county within 5 miles of the county line, a registered voter, and hold a valid Arizona driver’s license.
Those interested in VSAR membership must attend at least two monthly meetings as guests, after which they will receive a membership application. An interview with the candidate and several VSAR members will be followed by an evaluation hike of 3-7 miles in a typical search environment (flat and mountainous terrain). In the case of equine membership there will be a field evaluation of horse and rider. After successfully completing the interview and hike, the VSAR Board of Directors will review the applicant’s application and abilities and vote on the candidate's acceptance as a VSAR applicant. After this, a complete background check of the applicant, with fingerprinting, is conducted by YCSO. The process can take several months. However, during the background check, the applicant is invited to trainings and orientation hikes as an observer, thereby exposing the applicant to VSAR training and procedures. After the background check is complete, and if accepted by YCSO, the applicant must complete online courses, and attend and graduate from a 1-day Basic Search and Rescue Academy, taught by YCSO and Search and Rescue team members.
Search and Rescue membership is a volunteer position that reports to YCSO. Members will be exposed to search and rescue missions and law enforcement situations. Members must have high technical and physical ability and have the highest integrity. Applications can be denied based on the results of the interview, the evaluation hike or equine rider or horse evaluation, because of felonies found in the background check, or by falsehoods in the application.
The VSAR leadership team consists of a Captain, Assistant Captain, Lieutenants of Training and Safety, Operations, Secretary, and Treasurer. Several Sergeants are responsible for specialty units, such as 4x4, Drone, K9 Search, Mountain Bike, Mounted (Equine), or Technical Rope Rescue. This leadership structure is responsible for the safe, efficient, and productive operation of the VSAR Posse in service of the Sheriff’s office. However, during a search and rescue mission, the YCSO Deputy oversees the posse and provides all commands and instructions for posse activities.
VSAR trains members in various SAR disciplines, including but not limited to search tactics, land navigation (map and GPS), basic first aid, wilderness survival, human tracking, low-angle rescue, and radio communication.
All members are expected to be hasty searchers (ground pounders) before and while being part of a specialty unit, with the exception of Equine. There may be additional exceptions but that would be based on the type of unit and a decision by the Captain and Lieutenant Captain.
As a SAR member, you will not be asked to perform any tasks that involve law enforcement. VSAR is purely a search and rescue unit.
The VSAR and YCSO application and joining processes will need to be followed and completed whether an applicant has SAR experience or not.