Coast Guard trains at McKinleyville air station

MCKINLEYVILLE- The Coast Guard Aviation Training Center instructors evaluate every unit in the Coast Guard to ensure every procedure is done safely and effectively, meeting the Coast Guard’s standards. Instructors take a look at everything from book knowledge, to flight procedures, to the physical fitness of rescue swimmers.

Aviation Survival Technician, Tanner Marshall, explains the process as rigorous, yet rewarding. “A lot of our best days are people’s worst days. You know, when we get to do what were trained to do that we love doing, it’s someone else’s worst day,” Marshall said.

Training goes on all day, but can be canceled if a higher priority mission comes up. Crew members are on call 24/7 and ready to respond within 30 minutes of any call. Crew members are hoping for the best and training for the worst.

Commander Brendan Hilleary explains, “It’s a situation where you’re fighting for your life. So the rescue swimmers are trained to approach the survivor in the water, make a quick evaluation to make sure they are going to behave rationally or not. If not, they duck under the survivor and come up on the other side. They may back away or they may come back to the helicopter and request a different rescue device.”

Commander Hilleary stresses that members are very well trained and these evaluations will tell where the unit is strong and where they need improvement. From the time flight mechanics and rescue swimmers step into boot camp, until the time they are qualified to perform the job in the aircraft, it takes four years or more.