In July 1959, a dozen people formed the Cumberland County Rescue Squad with a simple mission.
“If you need us, we go,” said Gerry Latham, captain of the squad.
Those first Cumberland County Rescue Squad members started out with an old ambulance, given to them by a funeral home, and a rowboat with two drags. They primarily served as search parties for those who would get lost in the woods or to help look for survivors of plane crashes atop Hinch and Brady mountains in the southern part of the county.
Past captains of the Cumberland County Rescue Squad include J. Hinch, Lester Pelfrey, Ray Pelfrey, Doug Finley, Larry Hamilton, Jerry Wood Sr., Jay Wood, Kieth Arnott, Stacy Johnson, Kyle Hearndon, Verlon Melton, Lloyd Sherrill, Bud Mashburn, Dr. Medcalf and Latham.
Today, there are 33 active members and 15 honorary members. The squad has also expanded its skills, with high angle cave and mountain rescue, swift water rescue and dive search and rescue. There are four emergency medical first responders on the squad, as well as two Emergency Medical Technicians, a paramedic, licensed practical nurse and registered nurse. The squad assists county and city law enforcement, fire department and other agencies as needed in times of emergency, offering off-road ambulance transport, transportation of dialysis patients and key hospital employees during inclement weather, community CPR and more. Soon, the squad will implement Hug a Tree for all elementary schools. The program teaches children how to survive in the woods should they become lost.
“We’re all volunteers,” Latham said of the Squad, noting they will mount a rescue to assist anyone in need, and the Cumberland County Rescue Squad members have often been called to surrounding counties to help with specialized rescues, such as those involving high angle cave or mountain rescues. There is specialized training required for this type of rescue.
This past week, the Rescue Squad mailed 27,000 letters to residents of the county asking for tax-deductible donations to support the Rescue Squad. The Squad receives funding from the city of Crossville, Cumberland County and the United Fund, but that only provides enough funds to cover the cost of insurance, gas and utilities. Donations above and beyond those costs are needed to update equipment and provide necessary skills training. The letter drive is a major fundraiser for the Squad, which also operates a fair booth to raise funds.
To learn more about the Cumberland County Rescue Squad, call Latham at 337-4717 or 1st Lt. Kyle Hearndon at 260-8263.