About Us - WMRT
WMRT - Who we are
WMRT is the primary search and rescue (SAR) team for Gunnison County. The team was established in the 1960s by a group of Western State students after organizing a search for a missing professor. WMRT was the first college-based, nationally accredited Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) team in the United States and has continued to be the only collegiate team since 1987.
WMRT operates under the Gunnison County Sheriff as the primary SAR team for the Gunnison County. Team members work with several agencies including, but not limited to, local and state law enforcement, Emergency Medical Services, fire crews, the National Park Service, and other SAR operations throughout the state. WMRT is also a club of Western State. As a result, the team is considered a non-profit group under Western State College Foundation’s 501 (c) 3 status. Donations cover a large portion of the team's operating budget, and are greatly appreciated.
There are approximately 20 full time members, but this number fluctuates throughout the year as new members join WMRT, and older members leave the community. Every year, the team invites students and community members to join the organization. New members are educated through classroom lectures and field trainings between September and April to obtain Field Level certification. This provides individuals with the abilities and skills necessary to participate in technical missions and searches. Once members complete their first year of training, they continue through the Support Level certification. After completion of their second year of training, they have achieved full Support status and may be called to help on any mission.
New members commonly put in over 200 volunteer hours their first year on the team and hours only increase as team members train for higher certifications and participate more in the general function of the team. The most involved team members voluntarily commit more than 25 hours a week to trainings, meetings, educational programs, and fundraising events despite being full-time students and working in the community among other activities. At times, classes and work days are missed and normal lives interrupted, but it is a sacrifice that all members acknowledge and whole-heartedly accept.
Approximately, 95% of team members are either current students or alumni of Western State and the average age ranges between 17-25 years old. Members take on a significant amount of responsibility beyond participating in a rescue mission. As with any organization, there is a Board of Directors made up of team members. Positions include Team Leader, President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Fundraising Coordinator, Medical Coordinator, Communications Coordinator, Equipment Manager, Vehicle Manager, Primary Mission Coordinator, Mission Secretary, Dog Team Coordinator, Field and Support Trainers, Training Coordinator, and seven Mission Coordinators. The board meets monthly for board meetings and bi-monthly for general meetings. Members are often voted into more than one position, each with very specific duties and a significant amount of personal time used for public relations, vehicle repairs, fundraising events, training, and much more. Mission Coordinators, for example, are the primary contact between the team and Gunnison County Dispatch. They are required to be ‘on call’ at least once a week, sometimes more, to respond to backcountry emergencies. The length of these calls are unknown, sometimes lasting for several days.
Since member turnover is extremely high, WMRT works hard to train frequently; more often than any team in the state resulting in strong technical skills that are often requested by other counties. In 2011, the team was dispatched to 22 calls, five of which were out-of-county missions. In addition to training and missions, WMRT has to re-certify as a MRA team every five years. Re-accreditation skills include high-angle rope rescue, search, scree evacuation, winter rescue and winter evacuation and are evaluated by MRA teams in the Rocky Mountain Region: Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. WMRT has not failed a single section of the re-accreditation since first being accredited with the MRA.
As a club of Western State, students who join WMRT gain life-long skills that are rarely achieved through involvement in other clubs on campus. Members have the opportunity to be an active voice on a voting board; responsible for their personal position and developing a voice on the team.