Ditto Wildmed (probably because I am in Colorado also). For our team the process goes like this:
Read before reading (huh?): These are our teams, and my personal thoughts, yours may be very different.
-Show up at the monthly meetings.
-Attend and participate in monthly general team training.
-Attend and participate in specialized team training for disciplines you are interested in, e.g. alpine, avy, high angle, swiftwater, medical, tracking, etc. We are a small team (our bylaws limit us to 40 people, so generally folks tend to be on multiple teams).
-Assemble a 24 hour pack applicable to your team and area of operation. A Sartech II 24 hour pack is generally the starting point. Realize that you will need to carry team gear too; systems, ropes, litters, med packs, etc. so going big is not a bad idea, I use a vintage (well used) Gregory Shasta 80 liter, but have been thinking about going to a Denali for the capacity, especially in winter. My wife and I train with 20/30 lbs loads at 8600 agl, so that a bump to a 40-50 during a mission is doable. Ask around the team to figure out what the other team members are doing.
-Our team does physical assessments to make sure that what someone wants to do is in line with what they can do. Having a team member go down/go back is never good, as beyond reducing the team number, it splits the team( you don't go alone in the backcountry).
-After a period of time, if the applicant is showing the commitment, the applicant will be give an application package for the team, and the sheriff department background check (this can take some time). Even though we are a separate 501(c)(3) corporation we work as part of the SO, and the SO issues our ID cards.
-If the applicant clears the app process they are asked to interview with the team's board of directors and then they are voted on for membership.
-During this process applicants are not allowed on call-outs, because they have limited/no training, no 24 hour pack and are not covered by insurance.
-Once voted on the team, the now probational member is now available for call out. All training for the first year is internal to the team, e.g. CPR, first aid, avy search, etc. The team will not pay for any outside patch (shoulder) training (e.g. woofer, H/L angle, swift water, avy tech, etc.) until the member has been an active member of the team for at least one year (team has been burned on paying for external training then the member leaves, resigns, etc.)
-Our basic training requirements are for first aid/cpr and Sartech II. Our area covers high county (Sangre De Cristos), swiftwater (Royal Gorge/Arkansas River), and high arrid brush country (eastern half of the county). So specialization depends not only on what area you live in (rapid response), but also interest. Although I personally lean toward the alpine/avy/medical areas, I also train as a shore tech to support the swiftwater group. And like the Marines, everyone is a ground pounder.
A couple of things:
-Percentage of recoveries vs. happy ending is high. Although I haven't done the math it is probably in the 75/25 range. Be prepared.
-Call outs tend to be when people are in the backcountry, e.g. weekends, holiday's, etc. And to backup someone elses comments callouts tend to be on Sunday PMs, Mondays, etc. when folks are overdue.
-As far as medical training goes, do to the nature of a SAR mission, you are generally more then the one hour from definitive med care hand-off, that separates front country from back country medical training and protocols. I suggest looking for wilderness medical training programs, wfa, wfr, w-emt, etc. Generally more costly, but much more applicable.
-Backcountry evacs are people intensive. SAR teams are always looking for new people to fill out the team/bench.
-Part of SAR is also fund raising for gear, vehicles, maybe a shack/barn so be prepared, just like a mission these are "all checkers to the front" events.
The best pay you get is generally a good hand-off, of a live patient, to the ambulance/helio crew, or maybe a thank you from a family member because the team has returned a loved one.
My two cents, yours may differ and probably do.