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Search and rescue team is receiving recognition for work done in Turkey, Presented by Consul General.
Consul General Of Turkey visits LASD Search and Rescue Team 1024 554 SIB Staff

Consul General Of Turkey visits LASD Search and Rescue Team

Consul General Of Turkey visits LASD Search and Rescue Team

There is a common saying in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD): The Bear Goes Everywhere.

When footage of the destruction from Turkey and Syria came flooding in on February 6th, Assistant Director Mike Leum and members of the LASD Search and Rescue Program knew they had to do something. 

With decades of Search and Rescue experience under their belts, and years of elite training, the team agreed that they needed to lend their services to the rescue and recovery effort taking place 7,000 miles away. 

With the help of the Honorable Sinan Kuzum, Consul General of Turkey in Los Angeles, and the approval of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Assistant Sheriff Holly Francisco, 7 members of the of the program were on a plane to Turkey within 3 days of the first earthquake.  6 of the 7 are Reserve Deputies and 1 is a civilian volunteer.   All volunteered their own time to the cause.  Expenses were covered through private donations, and Turkish Airlines generously provided the flights. 

The conditions were treacherous and the destruction hard to fathom.  Aftershocks continued throughout their stay in Turkey, and the frigid weather compounded the challenges.  For 6 days, the LASD SAR rescuers drove for 2 hours from their base in Adana to the affected zone.  They worked primarily in Antakya, in the southern province of Hatay — one of the hardest hit areas.  Over the course of the time spent there, and in partnership with Turkish rescuers, they had three live rescues.  A mother and son were rescued on February 11th and a 17 year old boy on February 14th. 

In their home units at LASD, reserve deputies and civilian volunteers lend their services without any compensation—they volunteer their expertise for the support of various Department operations within LA County.  Translating that level of commitment to a dangerous earthquake zone in a different country requires an even greater level of courage and sacrifice. 

In recognition of this level of service, following their return to Los Angeles, Consul General Kuzum kindly insisted on paying a visit to the team to thank them in person and hear first-hand accounts of their experiences in his country.  This emotional encounter took place yesterday at Sheriff’s Headquarters, with Countywide Operations Assistant Sheriff Francisco and Special Operations Division Chief Jack Ewell in attendance on behalf of Sheriff Luna. At last, after having only communicated via email and phone, the Consul General, members of his staff, and the 7 Search and Rescue members finally met in person. 

The generosity of the Turkish people was a common theme extolled by the volunteer rescuers.  Even amid an incomprehensible crisis, the rescuers shared story after story of how the locals prepared food and tea, offering what little they had to the volunteers.  The people of Turkey were in awe of the sacrifices made by American rescuers, including the LASD team.  Consul General Kuzum spoke at length of the appreciation of his people, the friendships forged out of this tragedy, and stories that will be passed on to generations of how American search and rescue teams came to his country in their time of greatest need. 

When asked to sum up his experiences, Mike, the team leader shared: “Seldom did we have a common language with the Turkish people or other international rescue teams, but we always had a common purpose of rescuing as many people as possible.” The Search and Rescue Program’s efforts proved that once again, the Bear really does go everywhere.