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The Guardian Training Institute team is a group of individuals devoted to improving the lives and careers of Emergency Responders as well as the communities they serve.  Experience, training, and education are at the forefront of our passion and dedication.

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Pete Ungaro
Program Director
 

Pete Ungaro is one of the co-founders of Guardian Training Institute and proudly served almost 18 years in law enforcement with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in Iowa City.  While at the Sheriff's Office he was certified as a Drug Recognition Expert, Drug Recognition Expert Instructor, Standardized Field Sobriety Test Instructor, Guest Instructor for the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, Reserve Academy Instructor, Law Enforcement Representative in the Rural Roads Safety Video, and recipient of the Life-Saving Award.  He currently holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with an emphasis on Police Psychology, a master’s degree in Criminal Justice with an emphasis on Leadership and Executive Management, and is in the dissertation process of his Ph.D. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Forensic Psychology.  His dissertation and expertise are focused on officer wellness, PTSD, the impact of repeated traumatic events, and the need for mental health assistance for those in law enforcement and emergency services.  

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Al Fear
Associate Program Director  

Al Fear is one of the co-founders of Guardian Training Institute and recently retired as a Sergeant from the Cedar Rapids Police Department. Al served in law enforcement for more than 25 years. Throughout his career, Al has shown his passion for peer support, officer safety, the creation of long-lasting relationships within the first responder network, as well as building community relations. During his career, Al has been a Peer Support Team member, served on the Crisis Intervention Team, served as a Commander within the patrol division, was a Field Training Officer, Use of Force Instructor, SWAT team member, K9 handler, Criminal Interdiction Trainer,  Community Policing Officer, and an Officer Mentor.
 
Al is passionate about improving the lives of emergency responders and the communities they serve. His goal is to help other first responders gain skills for longevity and staying healthy both mentally and physically.  Al believes in creating strong leadership within the organizations to create a positive work environment. We need fewer suicides and more help for mental illnesses and PTSD

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Bill Searls
Training Coordinator 

Bill, a co-founder of Guardian Training Institute, possesses a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Iowa with an emphasis on Criminology. Following college Bill began his law enforcement career with the Coralville Police Department, serving in this position for 17 years. While employed at CPD he served in a variety of capacities, ending his service as a patrol sergeant. Beyond his patrol-related responsibilities, Bill created the Community Relations/Crime Prevention position, began a Substance-Free Summer program, and served as the first CPD DARE Officer. Bill also fulfilled the role of EMT/First Responder, Defensive Tactics Instructor, Emergency Response Team member, Bicycle Officer, Property and Evidence Technician, and Child Safety Seat Technician. He was committed to training other area officers, Citizens Police Academy, and Johnson County Reserve Officers, just to name a few.
 
Following his career in Coralville, Bill worked briefly for the Iowa Department of Correction at the Hope House in Coralville. He departed Hope House to become the Associate Director for the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety. During his tenure, he worked closely with students, staff, faculty, and administration to address a variety of campus issues. The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety provided Bill with the opportunity to manage the Investigative Division (including Threat Assessment and supervision of the UIPD’s Drug Task Force appointee), Non-sworn Security Division, Sex Crimes Unit, and Crime Prevention. Additionally, he collaborated in the development and implementation of their Threat Assessment Team. Bill was instrumental in the creation of the University’s original Emergency Response Team and the University’s Nite Ride Program. He worked closely with the United States Secret Service (USSS) to successfully orchestrate visits by the President and other dignitaries. 

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Dawn Rechkemmer, LMHCt, NCC
Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator

Dawn provides counseling services in the state of Iowa as a National Certified Counselor. Dawn previously worked in Emergency Medical Response as a Paramedic for 20+ years. Her professional experience contributes to a culturally competent approach to the services she provides. Her emergency response career began as a volunteer First Responder and completed as a Paramedic Supervisor for Johnson County Ambulance Service (JCAS). Dawn demonstrated her dedication to peer advocacy as she fulfilled the role of Union President before entering a management role at JCAS.
 
After leaving the ambulance service, Dawn sought to further her education by obtaining a master’s degree from Walden University in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is offering her services at Evergreen Therapy Center located at 595 Ashley Court Suite #5, North Liberty, Iowa, 52317 (Phone 319-535-3244). She possesses a passion for working collaboratively with other Emergency Responders to aid in coping with work-related stressors, enhance mental health, and aid in professional longevity. Dawn offers Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocess (EMDR) for trauma-related symptoms. EMDR is an effective psychotherapy technique proven to assist individuals in processing and recovery from a wide variety of concerns such as trauma, disturbing life experiences, PTSD, and depression/anxiety.

Please see Evergreen Therapy Center Website: 

https://www.evergreentherapycenter.com/north-liberty-counselor-dawn-rechkemmer/

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Athena
Therapy Dog in Training 

Athena is the therapy dog (in training) for the Guardian Training Institute.  Athena was rescued by the Iowa City Animal Shelter and was adopted by her handler, Pete Ungaro, weighing only 26 pounds.  She was physically and mentally abused by her previous owner but is now thriving.  Athena accompanies her handler to many trainings, critical incidents, peer support events, and other wellness activities.  Research shows that therapy dogs help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.  


Athena shows that animals, like people, can be resilient with the proper care and support.  Resiliency is one of the keys to succeeding after a critical incident or trauma.

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