"DAUNTLESS” volunteers give back to the community
Training day has begun. For this group of dedicated volunteers, EVERY day begins with feeding and prepping their animals and loading up their own gear before setting out. Owning a trailer to transport horses to any location is crucial to participation.
The group is called “Dauntless” — Dauntless Equine Response Team — often referred to as “DERT.” This is a unique specialty resource team whose mission is “To Serve So That Others May Live.”
Working closely with the Sheriffs Office, search and rescue teams in Clark, Ridgefield, Skamania and surrounding Northwest areas, the team spends countless hours training and preparing to ensure they are ready to help at a moment’s notice. The task at hand: using their specially-trained equine team to assist search and rescue agencies in locating lost, abducted or missing persons.
Upon arrival at today’s “base-camp” training, DERT Founder Mandy Mundy presents a briefing. Mundy is also a trainer and president of the nonprofit DERT, established in 2012.
The training course has been set, and clues and critical search information await in the woods like a complicated puzzle. The opening briefing covers the goals of the day’s mission and desired outcomes. Mundy asks the group, “What are you looking for?” “What will you find?” “Are you prepared?”
Preparation includes 24 hours' worth of food, clothing, supplies, shelter and weather gear for each volunteer and horse. Mundy continues, asking what clues they have to work with and where they will be needed most. Will radios — required gear for everyone — work in the remote location?
The group splits into two teams of four and heads out. It begins to rain.
The team learns much from every training day. What worked, what didn’t, and what could be done better next time. This day it was determined the two-way radios did not communicate well in the cover of thick trees and overcast skies. GPS devices, from Garmin to phone apps, were not consistent. They were not as prepared for the weather as they thought. The terrain was difficult, and by day’s end the team was fatigued yet proud to have worked through the exercise and learned from it.
Perhaps the most important part of the day is the debriefing, as this is where vital issues are shared and discussed. “Learning how we can improve each and every time we train is what allows us to contribute to real-life search and rescues,” Mundy says.
“We train hard and not necessarily with all the proper equipment or perfect clothing," says Mundy. "However, we have a passion for horses and an even higher calling to provide a service to our community. We are trained in CPR, have to meet Washington state core competency training standards by attending classes, and the requirements to be part of search and rescue. We spend close to six hours a month doing certified training. Then there is the time we spend riding and training our horses each week. We must do community outreach and maintain ongoing training standards in order to participate and assist in any search." It is Mundy's passion and love of horses that started the organization.
Knowing they could be needed and called at any time by the Clark County Sheriffs Emergency Rescue Service keeps them motivated to be prepared and qualified at all times. Much more time is spent on training than on actual missions, as they continually hone their skills and expertise, ensuring that they are.
“Because we all have families, full-time jobs and other commitments, we must have a backup plan in place with our family and our employers. If we have to miss work to volunteer for a mission, we often lose our wages. This can be a very costly hobby, as we also pay for our own gear and equipment — for ourselves and our horses,” Mundy says. “The educational requirements for the CPR classes, for example, on top of the ongoing cost of care and feeding of our horses, is not something everyone can afford.”
“Part of what we try do as a nonprofit is raise funds to help with gear and offset some of the personal expenses associated with being part of Dauntless,” Mundy explains. “Search and Rescue has very specific clothing and gear requirements that we must follow and provide for our team of volunteers. Our fundraisers are what really help us sustain our club, so we are always so happy when the community comes out to support us. Our events allow kids and families to meet our horses, which is always a big hit, and it’s a great way to teach kids about interacting with horses.”
Passion, dedication and a cause with heart is what this organization is all about. “We are parents and grandparents. There are obstacles and costs. But we are committed and driven. We are Dauntless,” says Mundy.
Dauntless — DERT
“To serve so that others may live”
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• Meet the Team Pet
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Melinda Thompson is a freelance writer with a degree in Speech Communications and a coveted "Ducktorate" from the Walt Disney World Company. She has been featured in many local magazines and newspapers. She lives in Vancouver USA with her husband, son and daughter.