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How to Become a Coast Guard Reserves Rescue Swimmer

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U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers, also known as Aviation Survival Technicians, do a dangerous but rewarding job: They execute rescue operations at sea, sometimes under very severe conditions. They are expected to be able to function swimming in heavy seas for up to 30 minutes at a time, and provide first aid, including CPR, while in the ocean. The job combines the skills of the emergency medical technician with that of a rescue specialist. U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers are extremely physically fit and possess a myriad of other technical skills besides swimming.

Enlist in the Coast Guard. You can do this by contacting a Coast Guard recruiting office in your neighborhood, or by calling the Coast Guard at 1-877-NOW-USCG.

Pass the physical fitness test. The Coast Guard rescue swimmer specialty is one of the most physically demanding specialties in the U.S. military. Candidates should arrive at the school in excellent physcial condition. As a minimum, candidates must be able to execute 50 pushups in two minutes, 60 sit-ups in two minutes, five pull-ups, five chin-ups, complete a 12 minute swim with a minimum distance covered of 500 yards, and four 25 meter underwater swims. Candidates must also successfully complete a 200 meter buddy tow. These are minimum standards just to get accepted to the program. Your actual physical fitness level should be much higher than these standards reflect.

Attend the Aviation Survival Technician and Rescue Swimmer School, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The school is 18 months long and emphasizes water survival skills, aviation survival skills, and rescue techniques.

Attend the Coast Guard EMT Training Center in Petaluma, California, for an additional three to four weeks. This school concentrates on basic lifesaving techniques, including CPR and trauma treatment skills. Swimmers are trained to provide basic crisis first aid on the spot to stabilize rescue victims prior to transporting them to medical care professionals.

Take and pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Techicians basic exam. This qualifies them as EMTs and finishes their formal education prior to joining the fleet and operating as a rescue swimmer.


Jason Van Steenwyk has been writing professionally since 1998. A former staff reporter for "Mutual Funds Magazine," he has been published in "Wealth and Retirement Planner," "Annuity Selling Guide," "Registered Rep." "" and "Senior Market Advisor." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in humanities from the University of Southern California.

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