By Mary O’KEEFE
Anyone who has witnessed Montrose Search and Rescue rush to a call of a lost hiker, or victim in a mineshaft, or just preparing for a training session that involved mountain climbing or rappelling off a bridge, will notice a short, yet authoritative woman packing heavy equipment and pulling as much weight as any of the men.
For the past seven years Janet Henderson has been the captain of the Montrose Search and Rescue Team. She has recently turned the duties and mantle of captain over to member John Camphouse and has donned a new title of commander.
“I am excited about it,” Henderson said.
Henderson will be the reserve medical commander for Los Angeles County Search and Rescue teams. She will have two teams, Avalon and Malibu, directly under her command but will oversee the medical portion of the search and rescue teams countywide.
“I will be heading up the medical portion of the teams,” she said.
Each search and rescue team is required to be emergency medical trained. Henderson will make certain that training remains up to date and implement any changes to the program. All members must keep up their EMT credentials with additional training.
Henderson is an emergency room nurse at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. Mike Leum, long time member of Montrose Search and Rescue and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. Reserve Chief, Search and Rescue was part of the department looking to fill the commander position. The previous commander had retired after more than 20 years of service.
“We were interviewing for a couple of openings and multiple [candidates] applied,” Leum said. “Janet, being a current nurse at Huntington, put her above the other applicants.”
Henderson has been a member of Montrose Search and Rescue for many years and will continue with the team in addition to her new duties.
She said she is looking forward to the different geography of Malibu and Avalon, compared to Angeles National Forest. From a burned and scarred ANF to a beach and an island, she will be adapting to several different challenges.
“There is nothing she can’t do,” Leum said. “She leads from the front.”
He added she rarely stays in the command center while they are searching but would rather be out with the team.
Although there have been women, or at least a woman, on the Montrose Search and Rescue Team for a long time Henderson is the first to be named commander. She added that was an added bonus to the promotion.
“I really enjoy being part of the team,” she said about MSR.
That feeling extends to her new teams as well, all she has worked with in the past on various searches.
“They are a great group of people,” she said. “I believe in what I do. This [search and rescue] gets into your blood.”
Even though she has been promoted she still receives the same volunteer paycheck she did as team member and captain.
“Yes, $1 a year.”