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This article was written on 29 Feb 2012, and is filled under Secret Lives of Hampshire Staff.

Secret Lives of Hampshire Staff: Search and Rescue

Written by CORC student worker Andy DeIuliis F09

One may think that Bob Crowley’s job as IT Director is challenging and exciting enough, a position he landed at the beginning of the internet age after working in Media Services and Network Engineering. But outside of work and his 23 years at Hampshire College, Bob has immersed himself in surprising hobbies and a job that requires serious backbone. When his team gets a call for a Search and Rescue mission, they know can be a matter of life or death.

Most people would not even consider enlisting in a 24/7 on-call Search and Rescue team, and neither did Bob until he happened to discover how rewarding it felt to be useful in emergencies. Several years ago, Bob helped care for his brother in-law while he was receiving hospice care at his brother in-law’s home in VT. The nurse, occupied with a swarm of patients, volunteered Bob to assist her in tasks he had never done before, such administering medications. Soon after, when the government was encouraging people to engage in community response after 9/11, Bob followed his growing passion and joined a community Emergency and Response team.

Although the group did invaluable work, such as educating the community on emergency preparedness, Bob found plenty of meetings and little action. “Eating donuts” and chatting around a table was too tame in Bob’s mind. He wanted to be at the scene.

He got his wish after he completed the rigorous year long training with the Central Mass Search and Rescue Team (CMSART), which covers a very wide range of crucial skills, from how to navigate the woods to how one acts as crew leader and keeps their team motivated in hopeless situations. After intensive training, instead of casual conversation around the table, Bob was sometimes asked to walk beyond the yellow tape and join police in homicide searches.

Now after five years working with CMSART, Bob knows that when his Civilian Team gets calls from the state police, it’s just a matter of showing up to a Search and Rescue Mission and scouring among the masses. Last Thanksgiving his team got a call that an 11 year old boy went missing in Ashfield, MA at 11 p.m. They knew time was ticking away as the night became colder and the boy may not have been warm enough to survive. Bob signed up for the mission and arrived at the scene at 3 a.m., joining hundreds of other rescue team members and search dogs in the pitch dark woods. At 7:40 a.m., he got word that a team found the boy alive. Although only a few people had found the survivor, he realized the importance of everyone simply being there and improving the outcome of a happy ending.

Being part of successful missions is thrilling and rewarding, but does not happen all the time. Bob and his team have learned to expect unpredictability. It’s normal to get absolutely no calls from the state police for months yet find themselves receiving three calls in a week, some of which that throw them in the middle of the night, searching till dawn among several rescue teams. On the other hand, they also get calls that already sound dire. Nonetheless, they put an excruciating amount of time and effort into finding a person, or in unfortunate cases, remains. However, Bob finds the latter just as important to complete, even if it does mean searching for bones because they can at least deliver closure.

In the meantime, when Bob isn’t working at Hampshire or taking on emergency missions, he immerses himself in a collection of hobbies. He not only sails a Laser, but has been known to make his own boats. He recently built a 14 ½ foot skiff made out of pine and oak, which he rows on the Connecticut River. Bob also sails in the many French and Indian war reenactments he’s been a part of, spending weeks in preparation for these trips because participants are required to make or acquire clothes and equipment from the given time period. For his last reenactment, he made a seamans cuff jacket, packed ration cups for the trip, and wore shoes of the 18th century tradition—that is, straight lasted (neither made for the left nor right foot). He then joined his crew on a 52 mile row up the Hudson River for the Burning of Kingstown.

Listening to Bob, I could sense that he is constantly seeking excitement and is never without adventure and stories to tell. You too can visit Bob in his first floor library office to talk about his adventures or ask about advice concerning CMSART, WFR education, and IT experience.

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