Banker, vet find fulfillment with search and rescue

KJERSTIN HILL’S DAY JOB is leading Alpine Bank’s Internet banking department. Her volunteer vocation is serving on the Mesa County Search and Rescue Ground Team. “They teach you everything they want you to know,” she says.

Veterinarian Dr. Bob Marquis, right, and veterinary technician Cathy Lorentzen check out X-rays of the spine of a paralyzed dog as they plan their surgical options at the Tiara Rado Animal Hospital. Marquis volunteers with Mesa County Search and Rescue.


JOIN THE TEAM   Mesa County Search and Rescue Ground Team is accepting applications for new members.

Applications can be picked up at the front counter of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, 215 Rice St.

An eight-week course for new members begins Feb. 16. Classes will be on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and every other Saturday. It is mandatory to attend the training classes in order to join the team.

The ground team has no more than 40 members. The team is responsible for finding lost or injured people in all kinds of terrain. Members can be called to assist other Search and Rescue teams in Colorado or neighboring states.

Ground team members also help with swift-water rescues in the Colorado River and other bodies of water.

When needed, the team participates in recovery missions, which involve recovering bodies, and goes on evidence searches for the Sheriff’s Department and area police departments.

The team goes on about 60 missions a year, said Steve Lentz, a Search and Rescue member.

Search and Rescue operates by donation and small fees from hunting or fishing licenses and snowmobile registration.

For more information, contact Lentz at 257-6647 or e-mail mcsargtstandardscommittee

It took Bob Marquis 30 years to find the perfect way to volunteer. Now, at 59, his only regret is that he didn’t join Mesa County Search and Rescue sooner.

“It’s teamwork like you don’t get in other aspects of life,” Marquis said.

Marquis and the dozens of other people serving on the seven different Search and Rescue teams are not paid for assignments and receive no compensation for the hours of training they go through annually.

But the benefits of being a member of Search and Rescue are far greater than a salary, said Marquis and Kjerstin Hill, another volunteer.

Hill and Marquis are both part of the Mesa County Search and Rescue Ground Team.

Marquis, a veterinarian at Tiara Rado Animal Hospital, has been a part of the team for nearly a year.

Hill, 34, is entering her third winter on the team. In her day job she heads the Internet banking department at Alpine Bank.

The chance to serve the community in an outdoor setting was too good to pass up when Hill and Marquis joined Search and Rescue’s ground team.

Search and Rescue officials hope other people feel like Hill and Marquis. Applications are being accepted for ground team volunteers. An eight-week course for new members begins Feb. 16.

Marquis came to Search and Rescue after years of writing checks to charities and volunteering with various organizations. Those things weren’t enough, though. He wanted to volunteer with a group or cause that challenged him personally.

One day, while driving around Grand Junction, he saw a vehicle with a Search and Rescue sticker on a window. Marquis, who loves to hike, camp and fly fish, became intrigued by the idea of joining Search and Rescue.

“I realized that person was just another person like me,” Marquis said.

In fact, many members of Search and Rescue are regular Joes or Janes, Hill said.

While some members are avid backcountry skiers, adept mountain climbers and strong hikers, other members don’t do any one thing particularly well outdoors, at least not when they first joined, she said.

The only requirements for joining Search and Rescue’s ground team are being in relatively good physical shape and loving the outdoors, Marquis said.

The only outdoors-type skill she possessed before joining Search and Rescue was the ability to locate Mount Garfield, Grand Mesa and Colorado National Monument, said Hill, who loves the outdoors and moved to Mesa County in 1991.

“That was all I came to the table with,” Hill said. “I hadn’t a clue about anything.”

Since joining, Hill has climbed mountains, learned to tie knots, rappel and rescue stranded or injured rafters.

“They teach you everything they want you to know,” Hill said.

“I’ve always been an outdoorsy person, but I never thought I’d rappel off a cliff at night or fly in a helicopter,” Hill said.

And the chance to physically and mentally challenge yourself is addicting, Marquis said.

“Most of it is a willingness to pitch in and be part of a team,” Marquis said. “It’s a huge community asset.”

“Your pager goes off and you get excited,” Hill said. “We don’t speed to missions, but it’s on that verge. You get there and get started and get your assignments. It’s a high.”

Both Marquis and Hill always keep their vehicles packed with their gear just in case they are paged at work or in the middle of the night, which has happened to Hill.

Sometimes searches are two hours long. Sometimes they take days.

Sometimes, searches end successfully. Sometimes they turn into recovery missions.

“To find that person, I can’t even explain the feeling,” Hill said. “I could see me doing this for as long as I can.”


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