Josh Goldmark, 17, is the youngest member of a countywide support team that comes to the aid of Southern Californians who have suffered from natural or man-made disasters.
Goldmark, a 5-foot 9-inch, 150-pound senior at Sunny Hills High School, has been an official member of the Orange County Search and Rescue team since July, 1987.
His motivation for participation is simple: He likes to help people.
"That's the reason I do it," Goldmark said, "in addition to the benefits."
The benefits of such a volunteer job, where the minimum age limit is 16, are endless, according to Goldmark.
"I've learned how to deal with people and myself during emergency situations," he said, "and learned that I can make a difference in such situations."
Goldmark said he and a friend were driving recently in Norwalk when they saw a car crash into a light post. Goldmark waited at the scene for help to arrive, then assisted members of the Fire Department as they pried open the door, extricated the driver and administered first aid. The driver was then taken to the hospital by paramedics.
"I've learned not to panic," Goldmark said. "Friends look at me and say that I'm so calm."
Students in school with Goldmark last September witnessed his sporadic departures during the disastrous brush fires in the Cleveland National Forest.
Goldmark had a total of four "call-outs," which are reported to him by phone through the school's office.
"We assisted the paramedics in treating and rescuing injured firefighters," Goldmark said. The team helped firefighters who were victims of smoke inhalation, minor burns, twisted ankles or other minor injuries.
After three consecutive days on the scene, he returned home exhausted.
"You never realize how much effort you put in until after you leave the scene. Then you just want to go to sleep," said Goldmark, who is a member of the team's mountain rescue sub-group.
"There was one training session that was a mock search for two missing children. It was located in the Silverado Canyon area, and by the end of the day I was a bit tired, but I felt good."
The search was set up the night before by a crew of Search and Rescue people. Clues were hidden for the participants to find the next day.
"Every time we thought we found a clue, we would radio in to the command post to report it. That way other searchers would be able to find out too."
After the tough 12-hour search, the crew estimated that the ground they covered equaled a 16-mile hike. "That was when I was really stunned," said the senior, who is learning mountain rescuing, climbing and rappelling techniques.
In order for Goldmark to participate in these demanding tasks, he had to pass a physical agility test, conducted at the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Academy.
The obstacle course consisted of the traditional hurdles, balance beams and coordination test, but it also had untraditional six-foot fences that the applicants had to scramble over.
"Those fences were not as hard as I thought they would be, but they were hard enough," said Goldmark, remembering the three chain-link, brick and wood fences.
After the obstacle course, Goldmark had to perform a staircase response, which involved running up and down four flights of steep stairs (about 30 steps per flight).
At the end of the day, every applicant had to run a timed lap around the quarter-mile track.
One of the team's ongoing projects is the National Kid Print program, designed to help prevent child abduction through fingerprinting. The Search and Rescue members fingerprint children, and the fingerprints are then kept by the parents.
Should something happen to the child, the prints could then be turned over to police to help with a search.
Goldmark said the experience and maturity he has gained as a member of the Search and Rescue team are sure to benefit his future. He plans to continue public service by entering the Air Force in August, after high-school graduation.