So you have decided to join the Navy and not just join the Navy but also become a Navy rescue swimmer? You love the idea of saving lives using your own power right? A lot of people hop into the idea of becoming a trained Navy rescue swimmer without making proper enquiries about what’s like or what it’ll entail and end up not making the cut but that’s not you, you are not like most people and that’s why you are here today. In this blog post, you’ll be able to see what’s like being a Navy rescue swimmer without actually being one yet.
Who is a Navy rescue swimmer?
Before I go ahead to tell you about what’s coming or what you’ll be facing, understanding who a Navy rescue swimmer is, is key to determining if that’s what you really want or not. Hence, the question, who is a Navy rescue swimmer?
A Navy rescue swimmer is a designation that is given to people in the military, particularly the Navy. A rescue swimmer in the Navy is usually charged with rendering medical aid to people who are distress in the sea, and also searching and rescuing people in the sea. It doesn’t end there, as a rescue swimmer you can carry out those activities on land and in the air as well.
Now you have a fair knowledge about who a Navy swimmer is and what will be required of them. Let’s go straight right into what life really is as a rescue swimmer.
What’s it like being a Navy rescue swimmer?
During the training
Your life as a Navy rescue swimmer starts from the day you arrive at Navy SAR (Search and Rescue). All of a sudden after a day or two, you’ll realize that you have plummeted into a stressful environment and even under such stress you’ll be expected to excel in military education, teamwork, close-quarter living, as well as physical fitness tests (PFT).
Before becoming a Navy rescue swimmer, you’ll have to pass through a SAR swimmer course syllabus, you’ll also be expected to have the strength, flexibility, and endurance to function for up to 30 minutes in heavy seas. You may not have all these qualities before deciding to become a Navy rescue swimmer, but the training you’ll encounter will make one out of you, and if it doesn’t, since you have already completed aircrew school, they might let you continue as a SAR qualified aircrewman or not.
While in school, every morning, you’ll be required to show for inspection and you’ll have to make sure that your uniform is perfect. After inspection comes physical training (PT) usually accompanied by a 3-mile run, you get to swim a little, and after you get to attend a classroom before entering the pool for training.
What’ll intrigue you during SAR school is the training environment. The training environment had a large indoor pool that was capable of simulating different sea states and the irregular swell of waves on the open sea all in an environment that seemed like a really large gymnasium. In reality, you’d have to deal with a helicopter’s rotor wash so they had large spray machines to simulate that. They also had parachute-like devices suspended from cranes that was used to drag the trainees through the pool.
Nighttime is also as important as the daytime. This is when you get to rest and prepare for the next day and as such, you’ll need the best Navy rack sheets in order to sleep properly. Without proper rest, your mind gets dull and when that happens you might flop during training and trust me, you wouldn’t want to flop in training.
After the training in SAR school
After the training program comes the actual job. There are basically two types of SAR swimmers: Ship-based SAR or airborne SAR. As a ship-based SAR, your typical missions will involve rescuing and recovering a man overboard as well as refugees that get lost at sea. For the airborne counterpart, their job revolves around rescuing pilots. Since their job is different from the ship-based SAR, they require more extensive training to help them operate around aircrafts.
Now, you are done with SAR school, you’ll be sent out on live training. In life training, one instructor will be positioned in front of the helicopter with the pilot and while another will be positioned in the back with the aircrewmen. In a fixed-wing aircraft the command pilots sit at the right side instead of the left and the reason for that is, airports operating under the visual flight rules do this as a standard pattern to avoid conflicts with the fixed-wing aircraft pattern. Another reason for that is, since the rotor blades operate in a clockwise rotation, most helicopters turn faster to the right than left.
In the live training, you’ll learn how to operate the hoist, and also learn to use the right terminologies when talking from the front to the back. You’ll learn radio etiquette as well as all the different systems on the aircraft. During an actual rescue, the aircrewmen in the helicopter work with SAR swimmers in the water using hand signals. They operate the hoist and give hover directions to the pilots. They also account for everything that’s going on during the rescue in relation to the position of the survivors and the swimmers.
As a SAR swimmer, your typical missions involve:
- Being responsible for picking up VIP passengers on other ships which is more or less like moving people around.
- Re-supply operations also known as VERYREP-vertical replenishment.
- You’ll do submarine warfare using passive sonar or dipping sonar buoys to track and detect enemy submarines.
- You’ll carry out Search and Rescue (SAR) missions or Combat SAR missions. CSAR crews aren’t as much as the SAR crew and they undergo more advanced training. Not all SAR missions are going to be interesting, so you’ll have to carry a book sometimes to save you from boredom.