By Sgt. Lisa Kennedy:
LOGANVILLE, December 5, 2015 – Soldiers from four different units of the Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) worked together as a team during a successful search for a missing person.
On Saturday, December 5, 2015, nineteen GSDF Soldiers were called in to ramp up a Search and Rescue (SAR) operation for a 90 year-old person who had been missing for several hours. In addition to more than a dozen Gwinnett County Police Department (GCPD) officers and investigators, a GCPD helicopter joined in the search both Friday evening and Saturday morning.
While the GCPD had been on scene since 9:00pm on the evening of the 4th and had sent out search teams immediately, they were unable to locate the victim. Their teams had searched for two hours before they stopped for the night. In addition to the police, the subject’s family had searched around the area close to the home where she lived. All searching ceased until 7:00am on the 5th.
The call for the GSDF came in just after 2:00am on the 5th with the following information: Missing person, 90 year old female, speaks only French, 110 pounds and wearing a white sweater over a flowered dress. Last seen around 2000 on the 4th. Location is Preserve Park Drive, Loganville, Georgia.
Loganville falls within the Area of Operation of the Third Battalion/First Brigade (3/1) GSDF and so the 3rd Battalion became the “lead” for this mission.
As a component of the Georgia Department of Defense, the mission of the GSDF is to provide an organized, trained, disciplined, rapid response volunteer force to assist state and local government agencies and civil relief organizations during emergencies to ensure the welfare and safety of Georgia citizens.
First on scene was Staff Sgt. Eric Horne, followed by 1st Sgt. Doug Ford at 6:30pm, both of the Third Battalion/First Brigade. They received an overview of the mission from GCPD Lt. Smith. Smith was relieved by Lt. Dan Huggins at 7:00am. Maj. Herbert Jones, commanding officer 4th Battalion/First Brigade, was the first GSDF officer to arrive on the scene. The situation was quickly assessed and Jones assumed overall command of GSDF troops and served as liaison between GSDF efforts and GCPD, and other agencies involved. A Mobile Operations Command (MOC) had already been established by the GCPD.
After going over the aerial photos with Lt. Huggins and Maj. Bob Pence (Commanding Officer 3/1), 1st Sgt. Ford, as NCOIC, decided to send the first team out at 7:15am, lead by Staff Sgt. Horne as team leader and made up of 3/1 troops. The line of search would take soldiers through some very difficult terrain as they searched deeper into the woods. “We swept around to the right in order to cover additional ground on our way back to the MOC,” stated 1SGT Ford. “While this team did not find the subject, we did eliminate a large amount of area and could be assured that the subject had not come in this area or direction”. When the first team returned to the MOC, other troops had arrived at the rally point, enough to make up three teams. These teams were lead by Staff Sgt. David Adair of the 3/1, SGT Lowry of the 2/1 and Pfc. Sines of the 911th. The teams deployed from the MOC at approximately 9:35am. They went into back yards, looked in cars, crawlspaces, dog houses, open garages or any other place that someone might try to find shelter during the night where temperatures were below freezing. As the teams were searching, Lt. Huggins of the GCPD decided that he would like to have the area behind the homes where the subject lived, searched again. This area was approximately 100 yards by 65 yards and had been already searched by the subject’s family and the GCPD. 1st Sgt. Ford stated that he would have one of the teams research this area on their way back to the MOC. Major Pence suggested that he and 1SG Ford search the area while the other teams were deployed.
At just a little after 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, 1st Sgt. Ford saw what he believed to be a pile of old clothes in the woods. As he moved closer he saw the subject’s feet, which were cut up by the thorns that she had been caught in. Laying in the fetal position, the woman was wearing a bright red sweatshirt over her head in an effort to stay warm. Ford looked for signs of life and felt a very slight pulse. As he rubbed her arm at the shoulder she moved slightly and moved her eyelids. These were the only signs he got. Although he knew the woman did not understand English, he continued to talk to her in an effort to reassure her that there was help on the way. Ford called to Maj. Pence to notify the MOC and within 15 minutes of being found, the patient was transported by emergency first responders to a local hospital for observation. The victim was found almost directly behind her home and about 50 yards away.
Because of the training standard throughout the GSDF, soldiers from different battalions were able to come together and work as a cohesive team. Search and Rescue Specialist II tabbed soldiers effectively led teams and all troops displayed sufficient skills to provide effective SAR operations.
Sgt. Roger Boles (3/1) summed the day up, “It is great that the individual was found in relatively good condition considering the circumstances. It is an honor to serve with such dedicated and committed people who are a part of the Georgia State Defense Force.”