U.S. Coast Guard from Astoria assists Clark County search and rescue training


On Monday, June 10, the U.S. Coast Guard from Astoria taught the Clark County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (CCSOSAR) team in assisting helicopter rescues at Goheen Airport, north of Battle Ground.

When the CCSOSAR needs a helicopter to respond in a rescue mission, members rely on agencies such as the Coast Guard while using their train- ing, like last week’s, to assist wherever they can.

The Coast Guard is just one of several aviation resources CCSOSAR can call upon during search and rescue missions that require helicopters, CCSOSAR Vice President Scott Watkins said. Along with the Coast Guard, CCSOSAR has teamed with the King County Sheriff’s Office as well as the U.S. Navy from Naval Air Station Whid- bey Island, which both have rescue helicopters.

“We’re a search and rescue team, and we do urban search- es, but we also do wilderness searches, and sometimes you find somebody who might be injured, you know, threats to life, limb or vision, and that can raise to the level of a helicopter extraction,” Watkins said. “... So, in places where there’s re- ally no place to land, they can drop that basket down and put a subject in that and then hoist them back up and get them to a hospital or someplace that they need to be.”

Last week, the Silver Star Search and Rescue team based out of Washougal and an engine crew from Clark-Cowlitz Fire and Rescue joined CCSOSAR in the training.

It was just the third time in roughly eight years CCSOSAR members had trained with the Coast Guard, Watkins said. The session focused on stabilizing helicopter components to make transporting rescue victims easier.

CCSOSAR doesn’t just respond to Clark County. Members can respond to emergencies throughout the state. Watkins said they’ve been involved in rescues in Pierce County, across to Yakima and even up along the Olympic Peninsula. CCSOSAR recently called upon a helicopter to assist in a rescue of a young hiker who suffered a broken limb on Table Mountain in Skamania County as well as locating a downed aircraft east of Mount St. Helens and rescuing the pilot and co-pilot.

Watkins also explained that search and rescue groups associated with sheriff’s offices in the state of Washington are all volunteers.

“We just donate our time,” Watkins said. “We actually have to buy all of our own gear, you know, everything we need to go in the field, like boots and helmets and packs, survival equipment and radios. We buy all our own stuff.”

He added that volunteers are always welcome, with recruitment open usually around October.

Those interested in becoming a volunteer can visit the website or email Watkins, vice president@ccsosarwa.org. For more information, volunteer applications and ways to support CCSOSAR, visit ccsosarwa.org.