Summit County Rescue Group welcomes 13 new members with a record 8 women |

Summit County Rescue Group welcomes 13 new members with a record 8 women

Joining the team requires more than three months of training

Ashley Rohrbach, left, and Lindsay Lesch take part in Summit County Rescue Group’s onboarding and training process. This year, a record eight women joined the team.
Summit County Rescue Group/Courtesy photo

Summit County Rescue Group needs to be ready to aid in all terrain and all conditions. Part of that preparedness is planning for the future and making sure the organization is well staffed. That means bringing on new recruits annually, and 13 joined the fold this year.

Summit County Rescue Group spokesperson Anna DeBattiste said that amount is higher than normal — eight to 12 is more usual — but what stood out to her is that eight of the 13 are women, which is a record. That brings the total membership to 75, 20 of whom are women.

“That’s huge,” DeBattiste said. “That’s unprecedented.”

To compare, when DeBattiste rejoined the rescue group in 2018 and went through the new member training program again, she was one of two women in that year’s seven-person class.

Volunteers range in age from their 20s to 70s. DeBattiste said there isn’t a hard cap on recruitment, but Training Director Zach Wade said it would be difficult to onboard more than 15 people at a time. The group hovers around 65 to 75 members, so it has enough people in case a large portion are unavailable to assist on a call.

“It’s a delicate balancing act to figure out what is the right number,” DeBattiste said. “Sometimes that call goes out at 2 a.m. and it’s 20 below zero, and then you really want a high number of people that might respond in order to get the response that you need.”

In the early 2000s, DeBattiste said joining the nonprofit was a relatively informal affair that mainly involved showing up to meetings. Now, interested parties begin the competitive process by filling out an online form. The New Member Committee goes through the responses in the late summer and early fall, narrows down the selection and invites them for interviews.

Interviewees rotate around stations, answering questions about their skills and about why they want to be a part of the rescue group. Some stations have activities such as team building exercises or training simulations where members can watch how the hopefuls interact. The group is examining the candidates’ attitude and character to see if they’re easy to get along with or will be strong mentally and physically in the field.

“It’s not that we’re not interested in their skills,” DeBattiste said. “We are. We’re interested in who is an EMT and who is a climber and who is an expert snowmobiler and all that. But the top thing that we’re looking for is their teamwork skills, how they interact with each other. That’s the most important thing. We can’t necessarily teach that.”

Kristen Griffin, left, and Kaite Bland are pictured while training to join Summit County Rescue Group. The organization welcomes new members each year.
Summit County Rescue Group/Courtesy photo

Recruits then attended a weekly four-hour training class from the end of September to the end of December. Each night tackled a different topic, such as medicine, winter survival skills and equipment. It culminated with a simulated overnight rescue on Vail Pass. DeBattiste and Wade said it was difficult to pick just 13 members

“We were really impressed not only with the 13 that we selected but really everybody that we invited to the interview process,” Wade said, adding that people who weren’t successfully admitted are encouraged to try again the next year.

Members aren’t assigned to any particular roles, but DeBattiste said a mission coordinator will get to know folks over the course of time and figure out who is needed for a particular call. For example, an experienced kayaker might be needed for a swift-water rescue, or someone who knows how to drive a snowmobile could be key in a different scenario.

Of the 13 new members, some have past rescue experience in California’s Sierra mountains, some are ski patrollers, one was with the Coast Guard in Alaska, one has mechanic skills and others have medical backgrounds.

New member Kristen Griffin, along with her husband, Kyle, brought with them their Wilderness First Responder certifications.

The pair took the course in March, and they became interested in joining Summit County Rescue Group because their instructor was a volunteer. Kristen Griffin, a social worker, sees it as another way to help her community.

“I really wanted to get into the field of social work to help people, and it was just another opportunity to do that, but outside,” Kristen Griffin said. “I thought that was really exciting. … I am so excited to be in this group with this group of women. They’re so inspiring.”

Those interested in joining Summit County Rescue Group can visit for more information.

Summit County Rescue Group members, front row from left, Eric McDonnell, Kyle Griffin, Kristen Griffin, Ashley Rohrbach and Olivia Andreozzi, and back row from left, Frank Guerin, Erich Swartz, Lindsay Wiebold, Justin Origer, Sarah Butler, Lindsay Lesch, Kaite Bland and Emma Wood pose for a photo. The 13 are the newest members of the nonprofit.
Summit County Rescue Group/Courtesy photo

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