Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Now this is extreme swim training: Inside the Coast Guard's Rescue Swimming School

The United States Coast Guard is the most underrated and most underfunded aspect of our armed forces. While in time of  peace most of our armed forces, (Navy, Air Force, and Army) summarily do drills and busy work to keep sharp the USCG is out there confronting armed smugglers, refugee crossings, small boat rescues, and other maritime safety duties. They are not only a defense force but also sanctioned as a policing body. Each member is highly skilled and one of the most import skills in that outfit is the ability to swim in extreme conditions.

Mens Journal has a robust article on how coast guard rescue swimmers are trained to swim in the most hazardous conditions - many are called, few are chosen:

From Men's Journal:
"...The average attrition rate of the program is 50 percent, but it varies wildly among classes. The class ahead of Via and Piasecki's, which is just about to graduate, began with 15 members and has only three left. Senior Chief George Marinkov, A-School's 52-year-old director – who appears to be chiseled out of granite – was one of only two members of his class to graduate.

The candidates follow a strict daily regimen of physical conditioning, practicing rescue skills, and coursework, starting at 7 am for up to three hours of dry-land training. Then they get in the water, where Kiest puts the group through excruciating physical paces. They swim sidestroke while holding a 10-pound brick aloft in one hand. "Buddy tows," pulling a partner in cross-chest carry for hundreds of yards, follow. Then they drop their bricks 12 feet to the bottom, shuttling them forward as far as they can before surfacing for a single breath of air. Kiest watches closely to make sure nobody takes two. He knows that no amount of instruction can prepare a class for the endless unpredictability of ocean rescues with life-or-death consequences. As if to remind himself of this, he has a tattoo on his calf: a pair of fins, a snorkel, and a mask clipped to a rescue hook, emblazoned with the A-School graduation numbers of the four swimmers who have died in the line of duty since the program's inception in 1984. The notion of self-sacrifice as the highest sort of valor is deeply held in the Rescue Swimmer community. It's even in their motto: "So others may live." ..."


If the Discovery Channel trailer is not enough for you, the NBC Nightly News has a stunning gallery of the students participating in this arduous course - sample image below. to see more click here: [Link]


Anonymous said...

Training doesn't stop at school. On 10/28 evening, a helo crew with rescue swimmer was practicing ocean retrievals just off of San Pedro, CA, using a "dummy" that was being dragged by the LA County Lifeguards. Despite the fact that it was dark, windy, choppy (in addition to the helo blast), and raining, the rescue swimmer was dropped into the water many times over (at least 4x in the 10 minutes I watched, and the helo was out there for at least 30 min).

Tony Austin said...

No fear, total concentration! What professionals they are and amazingly strong.