Southern New Jersey is home base for a unique group of men and women. The citizen volunteers of Mid-Atlantic Regional Search and Rescue (MARSAR) have been assisting federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in searching for missing and injured children, hikers, and Alzheimer patients since 1994.
This team receives no funding or equipment from government sources, instead relying upon members to fund their own training, equipment, and travel expenses. All of the members are trained in wilderness and rural medical care, search techniques, low angle rescue, emergency and disaster communications, managing the search operation, and crime scene operations.
Although the team’s primary area includes the 1.1 million acres known as the Pinelands National Reserve in New Jersey, Mid-Atlantic Regional Search and Rescue volunteers are routinely called into Pennsylvania to assist in missing person searches. In 2000, the team identified a need for a more immediate response to calls for assistance in Pennsylvania and expanded its corps of volunteers to include a Western Division based out of Birdsboro, Pennsylvania. From these two bases of operations, teams can now be dispatched more quickly to calls from law enforcement and fire departments in the Delaware Valley.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, Mid-Atlantic Regional Search and Rescue volunteers were requested to respond to Ground Zero to relieve the overtaxed local response until FEMA teams were in place. On September 14, 2001, the team assisted with recovery operations there and subsequently was assigned to the recovery operation at the Fresh Kill Landfill on Staten Island. Here, MARSAR team members worked shoulder to shoulder with FBI, FAA, and NYPD personnel over a five-day period to search for evidence and DNA material in the debris.
These search and rescue volunteers contribute countless hours each year to the northeast regional community in an ongoing effort to rescue those who become stranded or injured in barely accessible locations and to reunite missing persons with their families. Most of this is done behind the scenes and with little recognition or fanfare because the team members believe in service to others.