Tag Archives: search and rescue

BUSAR Fundraiser – Saturday 3/10…


Last August, Team BUSAR spent over 632 hours while searching for missing teen, Austin Bohanan. Austin walked out under his own power, but his family graciously wants to recognize our efforts for our hard work in some the toughest terrain in the park.

This Saturday, the Bohanon’s will be hosting a fundraiser at Maple Grove Missionary Church in Maryville, between 3 and 7 pm. There will be a chili to eat ($5) and a silent auction. The Team will also be doing demos to help increase backcountry safety and educate your kids before your summer adventures. We will teach your kids what to do when lost, first aid demos, drone demo, ropework, and Kato the search dog is going to show up.

The event is open to everyone, so swing on by, meet some of the team members, bid on some items, and let your kids have some fun while learning lifesaving skills. Donations go directly to the team to help fund training and gear purchases.

Thanks for your support and we will see you there

Location: Maple Grove Missionary Church 3201 Carpenter’s Grade Rd. Maryville, TN 37803
Date: Saturday, March 10
Time: 3pm – 7pm
Demo times: 4-5pm & 6-7pm

Search info:

Event info: https://www.facebook.com/events/199089874003269/


You can now vote once per day for BUSAR and save lives…


The story of BUSAR is in the top five finalists for WBIR Superstories. Follow this link to see our story and vote. BUSAR Superstory

Our story will be aired on Superbowl Sunday if we win, so head on over and cast your vote. More exposure for the team will hep us secure more funding, allowing us to purchase lifesaving gear and training.

While my name is in the spotlight, this team wouldn’t have formed without my dedicated and hard working team members, both past and present, the support from our families, and the opportunity from the park. From carryouts, to recoveries, to plane crashes, to missing hikers, BUSAR has been behind the scenes of search and rescue in the Smokies for the last two and half years.

To learn more about the team, go here: teambusar.org

And to read more about it’s formation, go here: Team BUSAR

Class 28/44 – The double birdie pyros…


What does an double bird shooting accountant that was dragged to Survival 101 class know?

That she can overcome pain, adversity, push through physical and emotional barriers, find support in her loved ones, and accomplish something she didn’t think she could do.

Kerrie : “I can’t believe I did that”

Me: “I knew you could”

Sitting in 44 degree water after a 28 degree night in a survival shelter borders on crazy. Every fiber in your body screams, you start gasping as the cold water steals your breath, your mind seeks excuses to get out, your thinking becomes cloudy, and you question why you are sitting in a cold creek in the mid of winter shivering with your classmates.

And then it happens. You dig deep. You tame your breath. You find your reason for living. You focus your mind. And then you shoot your instructor the double bird.

And while the double bird was directed at me, it was really aimed at fear… pain.. self-doubt… social stigmas… and death itself.

Not everyone’s experience in the Creek drill is the same, but I highlight Kerrie’s because I watched her crush all those demons that day. I watched her go from inexperienced to being able to save her life and others under physical, mental, and emotional stress. Cold, wet, shivering, and confused, she was able to gather material to build a life-saving fire, a skill that very few possess nowadays.

This weekend I will be training another cast member for Naked & Afraid.

It, like all the other shows, are an illusion of reality. Reality doesn’t play fair, impose rules, or have an emergency crew on standby.

Reality knocks you out of your boat into icy cold water, like Craig Strickland and Chase Morland   stealing you from your beautiful wife and family.

Reality soaks you and your children on a cold, dark night like David Decareaux and his two boys  ripping you from the lives of your other children and loving wife.

Reality is the nighttime callout my SAR team got for a busted leg on an icy trail New Years day.

Reality will crash your car, dehydrate you, make your throat swell shut from a bee sting, and a whole load of other nasties.


Reality, inspired by these heart-breaking stories, also allows us to accept the ultimate responsibility for ourselves and family and do something about it.  It allows us to prepare our bodies and minds in the safety of a training environment or at home.

It allows us to train our mindset, like Kerrie..

It allows us to train our skills like Team Dirty Water..


And it allows us to choose the right gear, like Josh..


In our comfortable world it is easy to forget that the forces of calamity lurk in the shadows. It is also easy to forget that we alone have the responsibility and power to to fight them, alone if necessary.

As I type this, I look out the window at the snow falling. It is 18 degrees and I am about to head out the door to work outside.

Natural law is hard at work. The icy cold, the bone chilling wind, the never ending assaults on my body’s warmth.

I imagine in Kerrie’s office however, it is warm and cozy. Her co-workers chat about the latest news while sipping mugs of coffee. Removed and oblivious to the dangers outside, the keyboards click away and the phones ring. At the end of the day  when they emerge from their office it will be a hasty walk to the car. As the bitter cold attacks them, there will be a deep, primal reminder of their vulnerability.

There is however, one amongst them that needs no reminder.

Maybe she walks a little slower, soaking in the elements as they launch their onslaught to her comfort.

Maybe she smiles confidently knowing she has endured much worse and found untapped sources of strength.

Maybe she cranks out the defiant, double bird in the face of anything, and everything, that would try to take her life… 

Upcoming Survival 101 courses



P.S. – Moms that get survival books from their boy and read it in cold water rock!!


Big, Big BUSAR Update – May thru October…



The above are my two reasons why this update has been a long time coming.

Without further ado…

Training – 

  • Returned to crash site of N1839X and recovered two cellphones of victims
  • Doc Miller and Borkowski knocked out the Rescue Swimmer class
  • Doc Miller and Borkowski knocked out Swiftwater I & II
  • NPS Tech Team training – Swiftwater on Pigeon River – Benjamin and Johnston
  • NPS Tech Team training at Chimney Tops – Benjamin, Ransom, Sharbel, Herrington
  • Benjamin taught 16 hours of medical, 32 hours of swiftwater rescue, 55 of rope rescue, and 132 hours of rescue swimmer training to various agencies
  • Ritter completed his litter team training and first aid/CPR class
  • Herrington taught four survival and P-SAR (Preventative-Search & Rescue) classes at REI stores in Knoxville, Brentwood, and Asheville
  • Geist taught two Wilderness First Responder classes for SOLO-SE
  • Land navigation training and course setup – Harrell, Johnston, Miller, and Herrington
  • Borkowski taught multiple LZ classes to fire departments and rescue squads in VA
  • Borkowski developed draft of SRT2 Aviation training module
  • Harrel completed his SAR-duous duty pack test
  • Lewis  taught multiple tracking and SAR skills classes for VDEM to volunteers, first responders, and VA Department of Corrections.


Responses – 

  • Recovery at Ramsey Cascades
  • Recovery on Abrams Falls trail
  • Recovery on Alum Cave trail
  • Bohanon SAR – BUSAR logged over 630 hours during the 8 day search and had 100% response rate
  • Abrams Creek stranded hikers – Borkowski
  • Abrams Falls search – Johnston
  • Sharbel hired on as a seasonal SAR ranger out of Gatlinburg. He has more responses than I can list here, but has been averaging 3 – 4 incidents per week
  • Doc Miller responded to Hurricane Harvey and then Irma with his USAR team. what a stud!

Team Workouts – Going strong every week. Sharbs forgot his kettlebell one night, which inspired the painful,  “Follow-the-leader” interval . Yep, that is a dog at our workout too!


BUSAR is a 501(c)3 non-profit. To help us help others, go here… teambusar.org

BigPig Outdoors at REI Knoxville – Nov & Dec


Back by popular demand, I will be at REI Knoxville on November 15 and December 13.

If your plan to survive a wilderness emergency involves sitting on the couch and watching survival reality shows, that’s great, my search and rescue team will be happy to come look for you.

If however, you are like the 100+ REI customers that have taken it upon themselves to seek out better mindset, skills, and gear, come see us.

November REI Class

December REI Class



Three years ago I was at a crux. I had resigned from my backcountry law enforcement ranger position, found out we were having a baby, and started planning our move to North Carolina. I remember reading a text from my MMA coach that he sent out to the team about training and priorities. I was in Florida on vacation, and he was right. I realized that I could no longer dedicate the time and energy to that sport, with new priorities entering my life. I left the gym, leaving part of me behind.

The same was true of my LE Ranger position. While I will never regret my decision to leave, there was a part of my soul that missed the most rewarding facet of that job…

Search and rescue.

I have been extremely fortunate to have a career filled with adventure, but there has only been one time in all those years that emotion has swept over me so strongly, I had to walk away.

Ten years ago, I was on a search for two off-trail hikers on the Spruce Flats Falls manway. I was just getting into the law enforcement division, but got teamed up with “Rambo” Ricky Varner who knew the area like the back of his hand. We located the couple, who were forced to spend the night out, and walked them out to Tremont.

There, patiently waiting, was their family, and what ensued was one of the most tender reunions I have witnessed. They don’t always end that way, but reuniting a family with their missing loved one will move the most calloused soul.


Photo credit: http://www.thegreatsmokies.net/spruce-flats-falls/

And so two years ago, fueled by a desire to be pushed by a group of hard-core guys, a penchant for the misery of off-trail rescues, and the aspiration to help others, I started recruiting a band of outdoor misfits to form an elite search and rescue team. Our mission would be simple. Prepare for the toughest missions the Smokies can offer..

  • Off-trail rescues
  • Extended carryouts
  • Winter rescues
  • Missing aircraft
  • Technical and swiftwater rescue

With the promise of bad weather, long hours, no pay, and dangerous work, they started to trickle in one by one. First an adventurer racer, then a paddler and climber, then a helicopter pilot, a doctor, a flight medic, a Special Forces veteran, a neuroscientist, another wildlife ranger, and the list went on.

Original flyer:


As diverse as the crew was, they all had in common the desire to help others in need and the ability to push themselves physically and mentally to build a professional team.

Every week for two years, in every weather condition, we have met at a local park to workout together, carrying our SAR packs and kettlebells, pushing the levels of fitness higher and suffering through grueling fitness standards. Every month, the team has assembled for some form of training, be it technical, swiftwater, tracking, land navigation, wilderness medical, rescue swimming, working with K-9 teams, or just a tough off-trail scramble.

Leaving the comfort of our homes and families to respond to missions, we have carried out patients on the icy Appalachian trail. Rigged up ropes to haul the injured hikers up to safety. Searched for a downed plane during hypothermia inducing weather. Assisted with joint technical rescue training. Responded to many calls only to get cancelled en route when the victim walked out. Searched the dark trails for a missing hikers. Assisted in the body recoveries of recent fatalities. And taken vacation days and cancelled personal plans to respond when called.

The team did all this, and more, to be an asset to the Search and Rescue operations of Great Smoky Mountain National Park and help those in need. The park is working constantly to overcome staffing and budget challenges. We hope to help them by pre-deploying on high volume weekends and holidays, which will reduce our response time and allow us to assist with the P-SAR (Preventative Search & Rescue) program.

The BUSAR Team is the finest group of professionals I have ever worked with. They are my friends, my mentors, my teammates, and they have helped fill that tribal void in my life. I am proud of all they have accomplished and all that they will going forward.

So today I am announcing our team website, Team BUSAR, and the exciting news that we got our non-profit status. For the last two years, except for three donors, we have paid for everything out of our own pocket. Our gear, our training, gas, meals, etc. We have done all that because we desire to help.

Now we are asking for your help.

With over 11 million visitors to the Smokies, there is a good chance that you or someone you care about may need help out there at sometime, so please consider helping us by the following:

  1.  Jump onto our site and read the bios of this dedicated group of professionals
  2. Push this message, and our website, teambusar.org out on social media, hiking forums, email groups, and word of mouth. The more the better, as just that action may find us the help we need.
  3. Like us on Facebook, TeamBUSAR Facebook, and invite all your friends to do the same
  4. BUSAR is a 501(c)3 non-profit, so please consider donating if you are able –  Donate to BUSAR
  5. If you know someone who is looking for a charitable tax deduction, please send them our way.  I am more than happy to chat by phone or meet up to explain our vision. Our team not only has a worthwhile mission, but with half of the team being veterans, it makes a difference in their lives as well.
  6. If you are aware of any grants or foundations that are inline with our mission, please email us at  – busarfoundation@gmail.com


To date, the BUSAR project has been one of the most fulfilling chapters in my life. This team would have never started without the hard work and dedication of those on the team and their support of their families. To all those involved, current and former, I give thanks.

Thanks to Chief Ranger Steve Kloster, who has been advising me since it’s formation, along with Jared St. Clair, TN District Ranger, who took over the SAR Coordinator role. Thanks also goes out to all the members of the Smokies Tech Rescue team, Kevin Moses and the cadre of B-TRTE for tech training, Chuck Hester of BLRI, and Brian Osgood and the BCRS crew for loaning us equipment for swiftwater training.

What was birthed two years ago, is now starting to stand on its own two feet. The feet wear muddy boots, the bodies are now hardened by countless workouts and training missions, and the spirit stands by waiting for the call and ready to help. The path ahead of us is clear, we are prepared, and ready for the journey. We invite all of you to join us in this mission to help others, by helping us…