THE FIRST SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM of Shiawassee County is shown following a graduation ceremony in Corunna on Tuesday evening, Aug. 23. Sheriff Brian BeGole and Emergency Manager Jeff Weiss joined the 23 graduates.

   The new SAR team will assist the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office and other first responders in seeking missing/absent person(s) such as they recently did at the Shiawassee County Fair. The team is a multi-disciplinary organization comprised solely of volunteers.

(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)


  The Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office held a graduation ceremony for the newly formed Shiawassee County Search and Rescue team (SAR) on Tuesday, Aug. 23 at the Corunna Community Center. Twenty-three individuals successfully passed the training to become certified members of the new group.

  Event speakers included Shiawassee County Emergency Manager Jeff Weiss, Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian BeGole, Sheriff’s Office Chaplain Todd Evans and SAR Team Commander Mike Johns. Family members and friends attended to support the graduates for the ceremony.

   The SAR Team is composed entirely of volunteers in service to the Shiawassee County community and neighboring areas. The group is overseen by the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office.

   The first graduating class included the following team members: Gregory Barber, Jerald Bila, Christopher Campbell, Travis DeVoe, Katie Dodge, Jennifer Drummond, Dale Franks, Heather Griffin, Michael Johns, Heidi Lewicki, Thomas McCardell, Carolyn Reneaud, Debi Ritter, Scott Ritter, Robert Schultz Jr., Melissa Sellers, Eric Stechschulte, Douglas Svarc, Ashlea Sweatman, Perry Thompson, Linda Thorsby, Paul Wilde and Willie Wilson.

   “I’m extremely proud of the search and rescue volunteers that come in on a monthly basis, put their heart into it, put their time into it and put their money into it,” Weiss stated early in the ceremony. He offered the team had started out with 44 initial applicants, but following a background check, that number came down to 42, with 23 successfully graduating. Weiss announced two more had been approved just that day to start the training.

   “Tonight is a great night,” BeGole stated to attendees. “We get to celebrate your achievement in completing the search and rescue training and the milestone of having the Sheriff’s Office first search and rescue team.” Later, BeGole emphasized that Shiawassee is a great place to live and an even greater place to serve, expressing his gratitude to the graduates and their families for all of the commitment and support in developing the team.

   The SAR mission statement focuses on providing a “well-trained, professional team of volunteers who are prepared to respond rapidly, effectively and safely to serve as an additional resource to the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office in search and rescue of lost, missing and overdue persons.” Going forward, SAR team members will also offer support to first responders if needed.

   Basic requirements include being at least 18, passing a background check and future annual checks, successfully completing the training, volunteering minus expectation of pay/recognition, attending mandatory meetings and more.

  SAR Team Commander Mike Johns stated it took over 1,000 hours each in just basic training for the team. Johns also shared some recent stories related to SAR volunteers who had worked at the Shiawassee County Fair as part of the training. Three missing person scenarios were quickly and happily resolved at the fairgrounds due to SAR volunteers. Over 380 hours were contributed by SAR volunteers during the fair.

   After each graduate received a certificate and had a photo with BeGole, refreshments and cake were served.

   If interested in finding out more about the SAR team or becoming a team member, please contact Emergency Manager/Dept. of Homeland Security Jeff Weiss at (989) 743-3411 ext. 2620 or at

Newly Formed Search and Rescue Team Celebrated was last modified: August 30th, 2022 by Karen Elford