Gene Saunders

About the Chief


Founder and Chief Executive Officer Project Lifesaver International Chief of Search and Rescue Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office (Virginia 43rd Search and Rescue).

General Studies, Old Dominion University/ Tidewater Community College, Southern Police Institute, University of Louisville, extensive military and police Special Operations Training and experience.

Career Experience

  • Retired Police Captain Chesapeake Police Department (Virginia). Retired February 2001 with 33 years of service:
  • Founded Chesapeake PD SWAT Team; commanded for 23 years
  • Commanding Officer of Training Academy, Vice & Narcotics, Criminal Investigations and Special Investigations
  • Served in various commands throughout police career
  • Certified Instructor in firearms, emergency vehicle pursuit and driving; General Police Instructor
  • Directed and Manage various large scale tactical operations involving criminal manhunts, hostage situations, and other special incidents/events
  • Served in National and State Guard commanding Aviation and Ranger Units, rank of Major
  • Certified Master Flight Officer for Helicopter Operations and Master Mission Specialist for Search & Rescue (SAR)Fixed Wing Operations
  • Shift Commander, 1996 Olympic Games, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 1983-present, serve in the 43rd Virginia SAR Company
  • 1986- 2009 served as Chief of 43rd Virginia SAR Company
  • Supervised and directed numerous SAR missions for downed aircraft, missing persons, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance
  • Certified Static Line and Free-fall Parachutist
  • Founder of Project Lifesaver: An innovative program employing creative strategies and the application of state-of-the art electronic transmitter technology to swiftly locate and rescue lost/wandering persons enrolled in the project


  • Member of National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR)
  • Member of Virginia Search and Rescue (SAR) Council
  • Member of Airborne Law Enforcement Association
  • Member of Pilot International
  • Board of Trustees – Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
  • Past President (5yrs) Board of Directors – Arbors at Cape Henry
  • Aircraft Owners/ Pilot Association (AOPA)
  • UDT/SEAL Association
  • Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Assoc.


  • Sworn Deputy – Chesapeake, VA Sheriff’s Office
  • Sworn Deputy – Norfolk County, MA Sheriff’s Office
  • Honorary Deputy – Lynchburg Sheriff’s Office
  • Guest Lecturer – Old Dominion University, College of William& Mary, Tidewater Community College and Radford University.
  • Lead and supporting roles in national TV’s “The New Detectives,” “FBI Files”, “The Prosecutors”, and “Untold Stories of the Navy SEALS”, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”
  • 2005 Delegate to the White House Conference on Aging
  • International Chiefs of Police Missing Alzheimer’s Patient Initiative Committee


  • Police – Silver Star for Valor (3), Meritorious Service (3), Line of Duty Injury, Chief’s Award for Leadership, Outstanding Young Man, Officer of the Quarter, Star Performer (2) and numerous commendations
  • Sheriff – Sheriff’s Achievement (2), Distinguished Volunteer Service, Meritorious Service – SAR (2), Disaster Relief (7), 30 Mission Bar, Lifesaving (3), Unit Commendation(4), Project Lifesaver Mission (140), Carlos Hathcock Award (2) and Military Service
  • 2001 – SWAT Service Commendation from the President of the United States
  • National – Lifesaver Mission Award; Exceptional Service Award
  • Masonic – “Building Communities Award” (2)
  • 2005- Care Track – Leadership, Vision Award
  • Who’s Who – 1989 American Law Enforcement; 1991 Who’s Who in Law Enforcement
  • 2004 – Strathmores – America Leaders; 2005 _ABI Directory of Experts, 2005 ABI Man of the Year
  • WAVY TV ” Shining Star Award”
  • ABI American Medal of Honor
  • Lt. Col. Civil Air Patrol (Ret>0 – Commandant – Middle East Region Staff College (4 years); Squadron Commander – 5 years
  • ABI Hall of Fame 2006
  • America’s Most Wanted TV Show All-Star Nominee 2008
  • Bank of America Local Hero Award 2009
  • WEGO Health Activist Hero 2014 Finalist
  • Medal of Honor Foundation 2015 National “Citizen Service Before Self Finalist”