Navy search-and-rescue (SAR) swimmers from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 on Andersen Air Force Base are a critical resource in Guam.
HSC-25 is the only helicopter asset for the Mariana Islands. It supports U.S. 7th Fleet in the Western Pacific and assists the U.S. Coast Guard by providing SAR units.
HSC-25 provides around-the-clock SAR support and averages 30 rescues and 70 medical evacuations each year. SAR swimmers can respond to a variety of situations from aircraft crashes to boats capsizing and are usually the first to arrive at the scene.
Those who want to become SAR swimmers are placed in a special division in boot camp.
"The program changed a few years ago," said Senior Chief Naval Aircrewman (NAC/AW) Jonathan Hettel, HSC-25 rescue swimmer. "Now all the rescue swimmers go to a different division in boot camp called 800 Division. Their focus is getting in shape; they do twice the amount of physical training than everyone else."
The division includes Navy SEALs, explosive ordnance disposal technicians and special warfare combatant-craft crewman.
After boot camp, they attend air crew school in Pensacola, Fla. "This school is four weeks," Hettel said. "It's basically physiology and anything flight-related, from water survival to parachute disentanglement."
Students then progress to rescue swimmer school.
"This is where they really become comfortable in the water," Hettel said. "They learn more about their gear and how to handle physical contact with someone in the water."
Before joining the fleet, SAR swimmers are trained in oceanography, first aid and CPR. They also gain hands-on experience with the MH-60 Seahawk helicopter weapons capabilities, rescue equipment and systems.
HSC-25's SAR swimmers also participate in frequent exercises and training.
"This is an opportunity to practice our skills, which keep us qualified and in peak condition," said Naval Aircrewman 3rd Class Thomas Sheehy, HSC-25 SAR swimmer.
"We have to be primed 24/7," Sheehy said. "We constantly push each other to stay in top physical condition. Our motto is, 'So Others May Live,' and it's true. It's not just an occupation; to us it's a lifestyle. We want to save lives, it's what we do."
Article by Airman 1st Class Mariah Haddenham, 36th Wing Public Affairs