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Ground Team Member Selection

Ground Team Member Selection

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Published by CAP History Library
Emergency Services
Emergency Services

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: CAP History Library on Sep 28, 2012
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Selecting, Managing, and Motivating Your Overhead TeamJames CookeSonoma County Sheriff's DepartmentSearch and Rescue Team
About the author:
James Cooke is a volunteer with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue Team.
James Cooke -- 72223.2140@compuserve.comA. The Importance Of The Overhead Team
A search is like starting a new business. There are resources to be found, staff to be managed, a business plan tofollow, and work toward a goal. About 90% of all new businesses fail in their first year, primarily due to poor management. Most searches that fail to meet their goal (finding the missing person, preferably alive) also fail due to poor management.
All Search and Rescue Teams spend considerable amounts of time training. Most of that training is geared towarddeveloping filed search skills, and rightly so. Far less time is spent developing management skills. This lack of training time in management directly translates into poorly run searches. Development of a well-trained, cohesivemanagement team should be one of the most important goals of every team.
B. Selection
A primary requirement for a good overhead team member is field search experience. It is not possible for anyone onoverhead to understand the needs and problems of the field searcher unless he or she has experienced the challengesof being a field searcher. In my early experience as a field searcher, I was constantly frustrated by how long it took to get teams into the field. I vowed that, should I ever be on overhead, I would make it a goal to get teams into thefield within an hour after they arrived. There is no substitute for actual field experience in sensitizing overhead teammembers to the needs of field searchers.The need for field experience should not mean that the best field searchers get put on the overhead team. There aresome team members who perform admirably in the field but have no desire or aptitude for management. A positionon the overhead team should not be viewed as a "promotion" but as a change of assignment. A mix of goodsearchers and good management is absolutely necessary for a good search team.Most successful overhead team members have some characteristics in common, at least in my experience. Some of these characteristics include;
Previous Management Experience.
Many overhead team members are either managers in their businesslives or small business owners. They have already experienced the day-to-day problems of managing a business and can apply those lessons learned to the search environment.
Team Players.
Managing a search is very much a team activity. Persons who want to be superstars will notonly not succeed in search management, they will demoralize and fragment the rest of the overhead team.
Managing a search is a constant exercise in rolling with punches and changing priorities. Arigid personality has great difficulty in this type of fluid environment and becomes frustrated anddepressed.
This does not mean aggressiveness, however. Assertiveness requires strength, not belligerence. The assertive person is willing to speak up even if it means causing a confrontation. Theassertive person needs respect rather than love. The assertive person is focused on the goals of the teamrather than their own ego. The assertive person is honest with their opinions while considering the feelingsof others. No overhead team can succeed without assertive management.While not all-overhead personnel have all of these characteristics, it is unlikely that someone with none thesecharacteristics would be a good choice for the overhead team.
A key failure of many overhead teams is the lack of cross training of their team members. Since Search and RescueTeams are primarily made up of volunteers, it is impossible to know in advance which overhead personnel will beavailable for any particular search. It doesn't do any good to have the best plans leader around if that person is notavailable for this search and there is no else than can step into the role.It is important that a plans leader, for example, understand the duties and responsibilities of the operations leader,and vice versa. While neither may be completely comfortable in their counterpart's roles, they will be able to step inif the need arises.
 None of us is getting any younger. Just as in business, there must successors groomed to step in when the currentleaders leave.The best way to assure succession is to include promising newcomers in your overhead team after they achieve their required field experience. Assign these "trainees" assistant positions, working with your section leaders, so they canlearn from example. When you have training searches, let these assistants assume the section leader roles withnormal section leaders acting as observers. The assistants will experience the challenges of the search, and thesection leaders can give constructive feedback for improvement at the conclusion of the training.When you continuously train all your overhead team, including trainees, you are naturally training for succession.Willingness of your veteran leaders to share their training and experience makes the new overhead team membersfeel part of the program rather than outsiders.
 B1. Selecting Section Leaders
How does your garage look? My own subjective view is that your garage is predictive of your success on theoverhead team. I cannot give you any evidence that this is true, but I'll give you a summary of my own ideas of thegarages of overhead team leaders;
Search Manager: Two cars, only one of which can fit in the garage. A lot of tools, but low mechanicalability prevents their use. Not very well organized, but can probably find most things if given time.
Plans Leader: Two cars, both of which can fit in the garage. Tools all on pegboard with neat outlines.Shelves are organized and probably labeled. Cleans oil stains from floor regularly.
Operations Leader: Two cars, but one of them is probably a truck that won't fit in the garage. Lots of toolsall in tool boxes for easy transport. Garage might appear sloppy, but can find anything in a flash. Always inthe middle of a lot of projects that will be finished tomorrow.
Logistics Leader: Has about 5 cars and trucks, but none of them can fit in the garage. Doesn't even call it agarage, but a workshop or warehouse. Has enough tools and materials to rebuild a railroad locomotive.Accumulated material for the past 20 years, all of which might be useful someday. Doesn't know whereeverything is but knows where to go to get a new one, usually free or wholesale.On a more serious note, there are some common characteristics shared by overhead team leaders. My observationsof these attributes include;
The search manager must be a coordinator. He or she must be able to step back from the swirl of theminute-to minute activity of the search and see the big picture. The search manager must let others performthe roles they are trained for without micro managing the search.
The search manager must be goal oriented. The goals of the search have to be uppermost in the searchmanager's mind, and he or she must be able to communicate those goals to the rest of the team.
The search manager must be able to convey a sense of positive urgency. When the tendency to panic becomes strong, the search manager must be able to defuse and redirect the team toward urgency and awayfrom panic.
The search manager must be a communicator. The ability to convey your ideas and goals to everyone fromthe individual field searcher to the sheriff is vital to the smooth running of the search. The search manager 

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