The Academy


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The Santa Clara County Sheriff Search and Rescue Team offers an academy once per year, starting in August and ending in October. The purpose of the academy is to instruct prospective team members in the skills and techniques necessary to work as a basic team member. The academy covers search tactics, rope rescue, navigation, and other topics. Academy sessions are held weekly on a weekday evening, from 6:30 pm until 9:30 pm and on several weekend days. A precise calendar will be provided to all prospective attendees.


Prospective members must attend one of two orientation sessions held prior to the start of the Academy, complete an application form, and attend an interview with current team members. More information about the dates for 2023 Academy orientation sessions will become available in late spring 2023.

Academy attendees must complete online courses in ICS 100, 200, and NIMS 700. These courses are taken as an independent online study at prior to the first day of the Academy.

Additionally, Academy attendees must hold a current CPR for Healthcare Providers certification at the start of the Academy. Acceptable CPR certificates are:

If you have a question as to whether your current certification is acceptable, please ask us.


It is expected that academy members will attend all classroom and field instruction sessions. In addition to the in-class work, weekly reading assignments will be given, and some skills will have to be practiced regularly and on the prospective member's own time. In extreme cases, a prospective member may miss one session, but the prospective member must notify academy staff beforehand, and must make arrangements to "make up" the material covered.

During the course of the academy, prospective members will be required to purchase and use certain materials or equipment, including a textbook, specific helmet and rescue devices. Typical equipment costs can start at $300 and may run much higher, depending on what equipment is already owned. A complete equipment list will be provided to all prospective members at the beginning of the academy. The class room texts are The Fundamentals of Search and Rescue (Jones and Bartlett, ISBN: 978-0763748074) and Using Your GPS with the Universal Transverse Mercator Map Coordinate System (Carnes).

While in the academy, prospective members must complete the team's fitness test, which is a 5 mile trail hike over steep terrain while carrying an appropriately sized backpack load.

Within one year of completing the academy, team members must attain certification at the "First Responder"/"Emergency Medical Responder" level of medical training.

Meet The Staff

The Santa Clara County Sheriff Search and Rescue Academy is taught by dedicated volunteers who have made a commitment to training prospective members. Some of the people you'll meet include:


Is entering his forth year as an active member of the Santa Clara County Sheriffs Search and Rescue team. He has a working knowledge of the skills necessary to be an effective searcher in the field. Dan has participated in Technical Search and Rescue situations resulting in subject find. He is the newest member of the Academy training staff and enjoys sharing the knowledge he has acquired through training with other staff members. Dan has a discipline approach to training, his goal is to help train a safe field ready searcher that will be an asset to Search and Rescue.


Has been an active member of Santa Clara County Sheriff Search and Rescue since 2015. With 13+ years in safety, security and medical response, she enjoys supporting Search and Rescue in the field, as an academy trainer, and supporting logistics as Technical Rescue administration.


Is an experienced member and has been part of the Santa Clara County SAR team since 2011. He has a talent for detecting the small details that have led him to many subject finds and recoveries. His care for fellow teammates has earned him the responsibility of team Safety Officer and he leads the team's rigging committee and is the assistant coordinator of the Technical Rescue Team. ( High Angle and Mountain Rescue) Gerald works in the field often as a flanker with the team's specialty canine handlers and is a member of other specialty teams such as tracking, ATV/Off-road and the newly formed parabolic mic teams. He is also a registered EMT with the county.

As a trainer for the Santa Clara SAR Academy and the Technical Rescue Team, Gerald enjoys teaching what he can and is highly respected for his knowledge of search tactics and techniques, tracking, navigation, rigging, high angle rescue and patient care.

RUSTY WACKERMANN: A Veteran team member with 25 years on the team. Rusty is the Technical Rescue Coordinator, that specializes in high-altitude all weather search and Rescue, and the Academy Director.

Nat Bowditch

A member of the SCCSSAR Type 1 Team, Nat is the instructor for the 24 Hour Pack lecture.

Kelly Wells

Kelly, an experienced orienteer and mountaineer, is the navigation instructor.

Kris Black

A long-time member of the SCCSSAR team, Kris, the assistant director, also serves with CARDA as a K9 handler.

Jackie Tubis

Jackie the director of the team, has been involved in SAR for several decades and has an extensive background in SAR management.

Interested in Joining Us?

If you've decided you'd like to join our team, please fill out our interest list form to receive updates on the 2023 Academy as they become available. If you have any questions about the Academy or the process for joining the team, please contact us at