Los Angeles Mission College
13356 Eldridge Avenue • Sylmar, CA 91342 • 818.364.7600

NEWS RELEASE                                        

June 1, 2005

Mission College Instructor
Gets Lots of Rescue Calls

Denise Edwards can run searches from a fully equipped van

By Eduardo Pardo

SYLMAR – The pager could go off at anytime of the day or night. A small aircraft or a hiker is missing. Or, there is a confidential homeland security issue. When those situations arise, the call often goes to Denise Edwards. As an incident commander for the auxiliary of the United States Air Force Civil Air Patrol, Edwards often plays a central role in such situations.

“The most common kind of mission is missing aircraft and I’ll either run the mission, be on the air crew, or on the ground team,” said Edwards.

Since 1992, Edwards has taught first aid, CPR, and accident prevention in Mission College’s child development, gerontology, and Community Extension programs.

A retired emergency room trauma nurse, Edwards has been involved in search and rescue missions for 45 years, the last eight with the Civil Air Patrol. As one of about 15 incident commanders statewide, she often runs search efforts from a fully equipped command center in her home.

The work is completely voluntary. And there are big searches and little ones. In 2003, Edwards was on a team of about 100 searchers who scoured the Nevada desert for parts from Space Shuttle Columbia, which broke-up in flight over the southwestern United States. Edwards said they found debris that NASA scientists on the team believed were part of the craft, but she never heard final confirmation of that.

Denise Edwards with team that searched for shuttle Columbia debris in 2003
[Photo courtesy of Denise Edwards]

In another incident, Edwards volunteered to help search for a missing hiker in Kern County after the active search was scaled back, distressing the family. Within two days, the body of the hiker was found. It appeared he had died quickly and of natural causes.

Later, the family invited Edwards to dinner and one of the children gave her a card that said, “Thank you for finding my grandpa.” Recalling the moment, Edwards said, “That still brings tears to my eyes. This is the reward; that’s why I’m in the search business.”