The LCSTARs page was established to recognize the achievements of team members who have gone above and beyond the necessary requirements to be a professional search and rescue person. They are truly an inspiration to other team members. It is also about getting to know our fellow team members and getting a peek at what makes them tick and some insight into the diverse kinds of people that join the SAR community and what they find so captivating about their experience.
From A to Zmijewski
by Mike Fink - published in the Winter of 1998
When you say her name just remember, the Z is silent but Jaynie is not. Born about 55 years ago in the middle of Illinois near Champaign, Jaynie has packed many experiences into her years. She is a twin, and her only other sibling is a brother Tony who is approaching 30 years with the Colorado State Patrol. Tony spent most of these years as a motorcycle cop. Jaynie sites many unusual coincidences that have happened with her and her brother. The most interesting, she feels, is that Tony was a security dog handler in the service in Vietnam. Of course now Jaynie is a search dog handler with LCSAR. Because they have had a few competitive episodes between them, they typically will choose not to pursue the same interests at the same time.
Jaynie has always been competitive and athletic. When she was growing up on the farm, she was the only girl even when you counted all the cousins. It was always a case of survival of the fittest and Jaynie learned what it takes to win against some very difficult odds. Unfortunately, when Jaynie was growing up, the opportunities for girls to participate in organized sports were nonexistent. Equal rights had not arrived. That didn't stop her from becoming the star pitcher for her Little League baseball team much to the displeasure of a few dads. Having to compete with all boys led to constant fighting but it taught her how to be tough. When college finally rolled around, Jaynie didn't waste time deciding what sport to try – she basically tried everything she could; fencing, volleyball, softball, and basketball, She continued to compete in several of these A.A.U. sports even after she moved to Colorado. Jaynie began her association with shooting sports and competition when she was seven years old. Dad would take Jaynie and Tony out to the woods near the farm while he hunted. Pheasants and squirrels were the main objective but outdoor skills and safety were also taught religiously. When she was twelve, she got her first gun and by twelve and a half, Jaynie started her competitive career. She received formal instructions from a military coach in Newfoundland, since dad was stationed here at the time. Her early matches were in a military youth program that had recently been established. I think they might know a thing or two about firearms in the military?? Jaynie has won state championships in Colorado and Wyoming and has competed quite often at the national level.
Jaynie's father was a career Air Force person and that is what first brought the family to Colorado. Dad was very actively involved in the setup of Buckley and Lowry Air Force bases during the early part of World War II. Eventually he was needed in the war effort so the family moved back to the grandparent's farm in Illinois. This is about when Jaynie needed to start school and she remembers riding her pony to the one room country schoolhouse. The contrast between farm life and military life was quite dramatic but very exciting, and each piece a fondly remembered experience. Dad was also called on to help during the Korean Conflict. The family chose not to follow on some of the Air Force assignments because these occurred during the school years and government/military run schools in those days were "not very good. " To site an example of this, Jaynie remembers school in a POW barracks in Newfoundland. This was the classroom from 7th to 9th grades. It was also during the Cold War era and Jaynie and Tony witnessed Soviet submarines that had broken through the security "nets" as they popped their periscopes not far from shore to observe base activities. Pretty soon the fighters would scramble and the cat and mouse game would be on. The nuclear threat was at its peak during these years and Jaynie remembers a few close calls when our bombers actually got over Russian soil before they were called back. Visions of "Fail Safe" filled my head. Jaynie finished high school in Bunker Hill Indiana while dad was stationed at the base there. Since Illinois was their official "home" state, Jaynie went to college at Eastern Illinois University, which was just a small college but has also been attended by Burl Ives and Mike Shanahan.
Jaynie came back to Colorado a few times when she was in college. She got summer jobs with the Mile High girl scouts breaking and training their horses. She tried unsuccessfully, many times to transfer to a college in Colorado or Wyoming with possibly a sports scholarship. Again, because it was a man's world at this time, she was treated quite rudely when anyone actually bothered to respond. After college, Jaynie started her career as a schoolteacher in junior high. Her first three years were in Illinois and then, in the late 50's, she moved to Longmont, Colorado permanently. Being a good teacher, she knew the value of visual demonstrations so one time she rode her horse, Eagle, into town, into school, and up three flights of stairs into the classroom. I guess it must have been bring your pet to school day or something?? Among other things, Jaynie taught Physical Education and Hunter Education at Longmont Junior High and had a passion even then for safety and etiquette in competition, and with firearms. At an age when children are becoming adolescents, this instruction and these principles are critical to reinforce. Jaynie knew she was making a difference. One time she was on patrol with the Division of Wildlife and they happened to stop two of three hunters who had gone into the field without putting on their orange. It was a father and son, and the son had been in one of Jaynie's classes. As soon as he saw Jaynie, he began to cry because he knew he had made a mistake. It drove home the fact that she was getting to these kids. In 1990, Jaynie retired from teaching with 25 years to her credit and this is when she began her second career with her best buddy Miriah.
Somewhere during the later 80's Jaynie took three to five weeks each during three consecutive summers and rode Eagle, her Appaloosa, to the Canadian border taking the trail that the Nez Perce Indians used for this same trip with their Appaloosas. Avoiding rattlesnakes was the norm and because finding water was sometimes difficult, Dr. Pepper became Eagle's favorite drink. Again, she was polishing up those skills that would eventually lead to SAR work. Jaynie had Eagle from the time he was two until she had to put him down at 30. During this time, they logged more than 20,000 miles together.
Getting back to 1990 and the arrival of Miriah, Jaynie began her training with Front Range Rescue Dogs. She spent about a year and a half there until problems and a suggestion to check out the Larimer team spurred a move. She went through BASART in 1993 with some guy named Casey. She recalls some of the missions they participated in later that year as being "wild episodes." One in particular involved a couple of young men who went on a winter backpacking trip near Crown Point. A blizzard came in (surprise, surprise) and aroused concern for the boys so Jaynie and Miriah got their first helicopter ride into the backcountry with Mr. Sparks as their support person. With waist-deep snow and winds of about 40 mph, Miriah started showing signs of hypothermia. This was something new that handlers had not been prepared for but using the same skills that are taught for humans, they were able to get Miriah warmed up. It wasn't too much later that the helicopter arrived to bring them out of the field and the warmth inside melted away the last of Miriah's symptoms. (The missing boys were found ok in another area.) After this experience, all the dog handlers have acquired coats and boots and other foul weather gear for their dogs.
Of course, Jaynie's most exciting experience was the search at Grey Rock when she and Cheryl were being stalked by someone for most of the night. They never actually saw the person but numerous distinctive noises convinced them it was not just animals or the wind. Whoever it was should consider themselves lucky that there wasn't a confrontation because I think Jaynie would have shown them the error of their ways.
Her most difficult and rigorous search was out of county searching for a lost Boy Scout at Mount Holy Cross. Again, there was a helicopter ride but this time the helicopter began to lose power and several people had to bail out into a swamp, including two dog handlers, dogs, three support people and two crew members. Everyone was now wet so, of course, it was time for a storm to come in with snow and cold and wind. Jaynie's navigator got lost while taking a nature call so Miriah had to do a mini-search. One of the other support persons tore a ligament in their ankle and they were seven miles away from base camp. It was during this long and difficult hike back that Miriah tore a ligament in her foot. Even with all these obstacles, their team, with coordinated efforts from a foot team and a trailing dog team, were able to help locate the boy in a creek bottom and bring him out ok.
A very emotional search that Jaynie and Miriah responded to involved a little boy from Nebraska. It occurred near Lyons and in addition to being lost, the boy fell off a cliff during his wanderings, probably that night. The day was very hot and Front Range Rescue Dogs had been up there the night before trying to locate the boy. The route in to the boy was steep and the wind was not consistent. When they got to the top of the cliff, a helicopter was hovering nearby and a strong scent was being pulled off the body causing Miriah to alert very aggressively and brought her close to the edge several times. It took them a while to figure out what was happening but eventually the body was discovered and a great sadness overcame the searchers.
Her two most frustrating searches were for Allison Bierma at Rocky and Sharon McClure in the pond by Lyons. They were great learning experiences although frustrating because the dogs were alerting but difficult conditions prevented them from finding the bodies.
Most recently, Jaynie has brought her experiences with the DOW to LCSAR in a firearms safety and etiquette class. She was delighted that we had asked her to put this together. Her wealth of knowledge and great respect and passion for the subject matter came through very strongly. She still feels that only through this type of educational activity will people be able to deal with firearms in the proper manner.
If you get a chance to talk to Jaynie, ask her about being shot at while gathering evidence against poachers, or the time she assisted with the apprehension of a traffic offender by tackling both him and the arresting officer and then delivering a solid blow to the offender's jaw. All this while passing by in her vehicle on the way to a shooting competition which she ended up being late for and getting in trouble for because the punch apparently dislocated a knuckle.
Jaynie recently attended an awards banquet for the Division of Wildlife where she was recognized for her 30 years of volunteer service as an instructor for Hunter Safety and other courses. Along with being on LCSAR, she feels these two volunteer associations have been the most rewarding and enjoyable parts of her life. Her stories could very easily fill a book someday. Thanks, Jaynie for sharing these few stories with us and for being a valuable part of this team.