The Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer (RS) Program, established after the renowned MARINE ELECTRIC incident of 1983 (USCG Historian's article) has evolved tremendously through its history. The program began as a high seas rescue initiative to recover incapacitated persons from the open ocean in a heavy seas environment. Procedures and skill sets originally adopted from the U.S. Navy have been updated and incorporated into today’s program to meet the ever changing operational climate and environmental conditions that the CG encounters daily. These changes routinely require a RS to operate and perform rescues utilizing a variety of techniques and equipment while adapting to many hazardous environments. These environments change based on the Air Station’s geographical location and Area of Responsibility, thus continuous training and standardization are paramount ensuring RS’s are capable to meet the mission of the CG RS program.
Comprised of enlisted men and women from the Aviation Survival Technician “AST” rating, RS’s complete the initial 18-week training course at Aviation Technical Training Center in Elizabeth City, NC. The school’s primary responsibility is to ensure that graduating RS’s have the flexibility, strength, endurance, and equipment knowledge to function for 30 minutes in heavy seas. Upon graduation RS’s are required to complete Coast Guard EMT School located at Technical Training Center Petaluma, CA and successfully pass the National Registry EMT exam enabling them to provide basic pre-hospital life support for the rescued individual(s).
The primary mission of the helicopter RS is to provide Rotary Wing stations with the capability of deploying a properly trained and conditioned person to assist persons in distress in the maritime environment. RS’s are essential aircrew and required by CG policy to be stationed at all helicopter units with Search and Rescue capabilities.
Advanced rescue training is completed at Advanced Helicopter Rescue School (AHRS) in Astoria, OR. AHRS is a 5-day course, convening 10-weeks annually, with a primary focus utilizing advanced procedures and techniques for completing rescues in high seas, vertical surfaces (cliffs), and cave rescue. AHRS is staffed by the Aviation Training Center (ATC) Mobile RS Training Branch. Class participants consists of qualified pilots, flight mechanics, and RS’s stationed at various units across the fleet.
Management of the CG Helicopter RS Program is the responsibility of the CG Office of Aviation Operations, CG-7112, RS Program Manager. Duties of the RS Program Manger include but are not limited to: