United States Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technicians (AST) Rescue Swimmers

The ship is sinking and there’s no time to make it to a lifeboat. You’re swimming and a riptide sweeps you out into the ocean. You’re flying and your plane goes down miles from shore. When we fall victim to open water and rough seas, there is one special group of people who come to our aid. United States Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technicians (AST) are there day or night and in all weather conditions.

For a long time there was no official organization in the United States Coast Guard dedicated to rescuing people stranded in perilous waters and dangerous weather conditions. The United States did not have the necessary capabilities to help those in need. In 1984 Congress passed the Coast Guard Authorization Act, formally making the rescue swimming program a reality.

United States Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician (AST) Rescue Swimmers make up an elite and highly specialized group of rescue personnel classified within the armed forces as special operations. These men and women go through some of the most rigorous and demanding training programs in the armed forces.

With student attrition rates of higher than 50 percent, the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer School is one of the most demanding of any special operations schools in the United States. Rescue swimmer school is a place where the elite are turned into weapons of survival.

Students are taught water deployment procedures, how to carry and release survivors, releasing equipment and how to ignore fear and overcome natural instincts—all to put themselves in harm’s way—rescuing incapacitated and lost swimmers. Throughout the program students are tested both psychologically and physically to prepare them for the challenges faced when operating alone in high seas.

“One of the main things we are looking for is comfort in the water under stressful circumstances,” Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Thor Wentz said. “Only the mentally tough stick it out.”

300 rescue swimmers are stationed throughout the United States, providing advanced marine rescue capabilities nationwide. Their services are used whenever a boat goes down or a person is lost at sea.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, United States Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers responded. They came from all over the United States, putting their specialized training to use, rescuing people stranded on roofs and in houses.

United States Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technicians are there when we need them most. Regardless of high seas and freezing water they risk everything to save lives.

As a premier air medical, medical flight provider, Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance Services understands the fierce dedication it takes for these highly trained medical rescue personnel to go out every day, risking their lives to save others.

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