[MSAR] Grundy County (Illinois) MSAR

Una Smith una.smith at att.net
Sat Dec 3 23:26:00 EST 2005

Below is a newspaper story that mentions our Lois Guyon's 
MSAR team in La Salle County Illinois, and an older team in
the adjacent county Grundy.  The story is now off the web,
else I would simply provide the URL.  I think it was first
published in July 2005.

	Una Smith
	New Mexico

Sheriff?s Posse trains for search and rescue missions
By TAMMIE SLOUP ? For The Times-Press

It happened nearly 20 years ago, but the panic is still fresh in Terry McCormick?s mind.

He had taken his 4-year-old daughter to a wedding reception, where the tables were dressed in long, floor-length tablecloths.

The perfect hiding spot for a child.

McCormick?s daughter crawled under one of the tables and fell asleep. -- for an hour.

?This was just after the Melissa Ackerman situation,? McCormick recalled. In 1985, 7-year-old Ackerman of Somonauk was abducted in broad daylight and murdered in a wooded area.

As McCormick?s daughter slept soundly under a table, partygoers searched frantically for the young girl.

?You just can?t describe the feeling,? he said.

McCormick recalled the frightening experience when asked what prompted him to sign up for the La Salle County Mounted Sheriff?s Posse -- a group of 20 trained volunteers who assist local law enforcement agencies, and are trained and certified in search and rescue techniques on horseback, as well as evidence preservation, drug searches, crowd control, and support for natural disasters.

The program was initiated three years ago at the request of Sheriff?s Deputy Dave Guinnee, who was impressed with Grundy County?s operation, which was established 15 years ago.

Guinnee, who had retired from the Ottawa Police Department after 20 years and had recently been hired as a Sheriff?s Deputy, pitched the idea for a La Salle County Posse to Sheriff Tom Templeton, who jumped on board immediately.

?Horses can go into places where it?s hard to go. They?re a very, very valuable asset to have,? Templeton said.

Since the county?s program was first organized three years ago, the team has been called out to assist in several high profile search and rescue cases, including the three-week national search for 3-year-old Joshua Gleeson and his 5-year-old sister Ashley of Dwight in 2002. The team was on the scene with Grundy County?s Posse when Joshua?s body was recovered from the Des Plaines River.

In two other cases -- the search for 7-year-old Dalton Mesarchik of Streator, and 3-year-old Riley Fox of Wilmington -- the bodies were recovered before the team could arrive.

In a search and rescue case, Templeton said many times law enforcement agencies will deploy search dogs onto the scene first because the horses can throw off the scent.

?But the horses can move farther, faster and longer,? Templeton explained. Mounted on a horse, the riders also can see from a height of 10 feet -- an advantage when searching areas such as cornfields.

Posse members and their horses must complete rigorous training to be part of the team. Although there is no state certification for such an operation, Guinnee said he certifies his own team through a handful of training courses held throughout the year.

One of these courses was held recently at Catlin Park in Ottawa. Clad in jeans, cowboy boots, and brown jackets with the word ?Sheriff? printed across the back in yellow letters, the crew mounted their horses after a four-hour classroom session and headed to a nearby field for a desensitizing course for the horses.

?We?re teaching (the horses) to go into what they think is danger or at least tolerate it,? said Jim White, a former Grundy County Sheriff?s Deputy who is part of that county?s posse. White was one of several Grundy County Posse members who took part in the recent training.

Upon arriving at the field, the group split into two teams. A giant green ball was placed in between the two groups as they faced off for a humorous round of trying to kick the ball past the opposing team.

Not an easy task when it?s the horses doing the kicking.

?Horses are flight animals,? explained White. If a horse doesn?t recognize something, their immediate instinct is to flee.

After the game, the group huddled together in the blustery weather as Lorne Cordes of the Grundy County Posse raised a handgun over his head and pointed it upward. The sound of the gun was meant to startle the horses.

Upon firing the gun, the horses stiffened, some stepping back a few steps. But as a whole, the animals remained fairly calm. It was a vast improvement from last year, commented some of the riders.

?It?s all about your horse trusting you,? White said, while observing the training from a golf cart. ?When you build a horse?s confidence, they believe it?s you making the good things happen to them.?

Members of the team are hand-picked by Templeton and Guinnee, who is an accomplished rider who trained with the Grundy County group prior to the formation of La Salle County?s posse.

?It has to be a special person who is willing to donate their time during all types of weather,? Guinnee said.

The posse includes male and female volunteers from all walks of life, including professors, nurses, carpenters, police officer and park ranger. And all donate their time without any compensation or reimbursement for the expense of keeping a horse.

?You have to be a very good horse person and be able to be trusted. We?re searching for bodies at crime scenes, and there has to be a certain confidence level that we must entrust upon these people,? Guinnee said.

?You?ve got to be careful who you let in. All volunteers have a good heart, but you can?t bring discredit on the outfit,? White said.

Only about a half dozen mounted search groups exist within the state.

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