Huffing and puffing, OCSD’s all-female first-ever team at Plane Pull doesn’t just wing it


No slack in the rope.

Crouch low.

Use your legs.

When tasked with moving a 120,000-pound FedEx jet 12 feet as quickly as possible, these were some of the key tips given to 25 members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s first-ever team in the annual Plane Pull at Long Beach Airport.

The 12th-annual event, a fund-raiser for Special Olympics Southern California, was held Saturday, Aug. 18 — and the OCSD team was the only one of 55 made up entirely of women.

And the team made history by being the first-ever O.C. law enforcement agency to participate in the event.

OCSD Dep. Kristyn Ellis stretches before she and her teammates pull a Boeing 757 cargo plane for charity at Long Beach Airport.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Call it women power.

Call it camaraderie and teamwork.

Call it, well, kind of crazy.

“Ideally, we’ll rip the wings off the plane, but we probably (aren’t allowed to) do that,” said OCSD Lt. Margie Sheehan, chief of Dana Point Police Services, who came up with the idea of forming an all-female team.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to develop some camaraderie among the girls,” Sheehan said. “We love the guys, too. In a perfect world, next year we’ll have a mixed team of women and men.”

Team captain Dep. Kristyn Ellis, who works in recruitment, said to train, team members paid special attention to their legs. Many regularly work out and also are mothers used to schlepping around their children, so fitness wasn’t an issue.

Crazy socks were part of the competition attire. Photo by Greg Hardesty/Behind the Badge OC

“We’re all out here trying to empower women,” Ellis said. “It’s a great cause, and why not show everyone that ladies can do this, too?”

They named their team “Sara’s Warriors” after honorary team captain Sara Thiel, 35, a Special Olympian.

“We’re out here for her,” Ellis said.

The team’s goal was to move the Boeing 757 down the tarmac in less than 7 seconds, Sheehan said.

They had no illusion of winning.

Members of the OCSD’s all-female team pull a 120,000-pound cargo plane 12 feet.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The OCSD team — a mix of deputies, correctional services assistants, investigators, and sheriff’s special officers — certainly stood out at the Plane Pull. All the other teams outweighed them by a lot. One beefy behemoth had biceps seemingly the size of some of the OCSD women’s torsos.

Each team got two chances to move the plane.

Shortly after 1 p.m., the OCSD team — wearing custom green T-shirts and crazy socks as part of their competition garb — moved into position and engaged in last-minute warm-ups.

They got in line from shortest to tallest, with the shortest at the front of the rope.

Deputy Dana Chaney, who is in monster shape, was the anchor, in the last position.

On the OCSD’s first attempt, they pulled the plane 12 feet in 8.3 seconds.

On their second attempt, the women did it in 7.2 seconds.

This year’s winning team was the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department custody division, with a time of 5.32 seconds.

“It was hard, but it was so much fun,” Ellis said. “When they said go, I was like, ‘Oh, are we moving (the plane)?’ At first, it wasn’t happening.”

Women from the OCSD Plane Pull team work together to pull a Boeing 757 cargo plane down the runway at the Long Beach Airport to benefit Special Olympics Southern California.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Deputy Lindsey Owens was the youngest deputy on the Plane Pull team. Owens, 25, graduated from the OCSD’s Regional Training Academy in June — Class No. 231 — and currently is in training at the Intake Release Center at the OC Jail in Santa Ana.

“This department is really huge on being involved in the community and giving back to the community, and when I graduated I knew I wanted to be involved in events like this,” said Owens, a former OCSD explorer who majored in sociology at Cal State San Marcos.

“When I was told we were going to pull a plane, it reminded me of tug of war in the academy,” said Owens, who hopes to someday become a K9 handler.

The OCSD team ended up raising close to $3,000 for the Special Olympics Southern California, and Saturday’s competition raised more than $200,000 overall, said Plane Pull Committee Chair Adam Christin.

Members of the OCSD Plane Pull team celebrate after a time of 7.2 seconds.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

That was more than $50,000 more than the event raised last year, Christin said.

The OCSD team was the only all-female team this year, but not the first. The first to compete was the “Women with Pull” team put together by CHP Sgt. Cathy Moore. That team participated for five to six years before Moore retired and moved out of state, said Christin, a retired CHP lieutenant who started the Plane Pull in 2007.

Over the 12 years at LB Airport, the event has raised a total of more than $1 million for the Athletes of Southern California Special Olympics.

Members of the OCSD Women’s Plane Pull team gather in front of the 120,000-pound Boeing 757 FedEx cargo plane after successfully pulling it 12 feet, raising nearly $3,000 for the Special Olympics Southern California
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I challenge all Orange County law enforcement agencies to sign up for next year’s competition,” Christin said.

To sign up, click here and find the interest form.

Here is the roster of the OCSD’s team:

Inv. Jamie Borba

Inv. Maria Bowman

SSO Rebecca Bradshaw

Dep. Dana Chaney

Dep. Amanda Chavez

Dep. Lisa Dolan

Dep. Kristyn Ellis

CSA Karla Felix

Inv. Jennifer Hernandez

Dep. Lena Hilliard

Dep. Mary Hollis

Reserve Dep. Susan Huang

Dep. Alessandra Lewis

Sgt. Sandra Longnecker

Dep. Maria Mendoza

Dep. Lindsey Owens

Inv. Rachel Puckett

Dep. Alicia Quinones

Dep. Lindsey Rogers

Lt. Margie Sheehan

CSA Rian Straly

Dep. Davida Tidwell

Dep. Heather Timmins

Dep. Carly Velez

Dep. Dana Von Voigt

Dep. Jillian York

OCSD Dep. Kristyn Ellis celebrates with other members of the team. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Assistant Sheriff Jeff Hallock joins members of the OCSD’s “Sara’s Warriors” team after the successful plane pull. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Members of the OCSD Women’s Pull Team point to their honorary team member, Special Olympics Athlete Sara Thiel, as they celebrate their successful plane pull. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC