When lives are on the line, Navy Aviation Rescue Swimmers (AIRRs) are exceptionally adept at answering the call. These brave men and women embody the courage of America’s Navy – readily going into harm’s way to complete their rescue missions in some of the most extreme environments imaginable.
Aviation Rescue Swimmers are a tightly knit group, dedicated to being the top emergency response unit in the world. They routinely put the safety of others before their own – applying intense physical and mental training to challenging real-world situations where there’s no margin for error.
What to Expect
Aviation Rescue Swimmer
As an AIRR, you must be prepared to enter the most treacherous conditions to provide recovery and relief for rescue missions, humanitarian assistance and operational support. Some of your duties might include:
Working as an aircrew on a SH-60 helo, where the primary duties are to coordinate with the pilots to ensure success of various fleet missions
Saving pilots of downed aircraft, people aboard stranded or capsized vessels at sea, or hikers and mountain climbers in danger
Rescuing civilians during natural disasters and collaborating with other forces, such as the Coast Guard
Delivering aid and supplies to other countries in humanitarian operations
Providing support to Naval Special Warfare Operations
Conducting surveillance in anti-submarine warfare and drug interdiction operations
Operate radar, Forward Looking Infrared sensors, missile systems and door guns in anti-surface operations.
Transporting troops and cargo to and from ships
Aviation Rescue Swimmers may help just about anyone, in almost any environment. They might have to save a family on the other side of the globe who is desperately trying to survive a destructive storm, the crew of a sinking ship off the Pacific coast, or a wounded mountain climber hanging from a nearly inaccessible cliff.
AIRRs may be assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) sea or shore duty in any part of the world. They are assigned to squadrons at Naval Air Stations and typically deploy aboard aircraft carriers, surface combatants and support ships.
Training & Advancement
Aviation Rescue Swimmers must be prepared to operate in any challenging environment. AIRR training is realistic and one of the most demanding, life-altering training programs in the Navy.
AIRR candidates undergo almost two years of training in advanced swimming/lifesaving techniques, helicopter mission equipment and crew served weapons systems" before reporting to their first squadron. Throughout training, candidates will be continually tested, mentally and physically, as they advance to more rigorous and challenging scenarios. Training includes:
Water and land survival and flight safety (4 weeks at Aircrew Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla.)
Search and Rescue Swimming Skills (5 weeks at Rescue Swimmer School in Pensacola, Fla.)
Basic skills in Naval Aviation (14 weeks on average at Class “A” Technical School in Pensacola, Fla.)
Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) techniques (2 weeks at SERE School in North Island, Calif., or Portsmouth NH)
Aircraft systems (28 weeks on average at a Naval Air Station)
Air Rescue Units
After graduation, an AIRR may be assigned to a helicopter command at sea or on shore duty in various locations thoughout the U.S., including San Diego CA, Norfolk VA, Jacksonville FL, China Lake, Calif., Whidbey Island, Wash., Key West, Fl. and many others.
Advanced Education & Training
Based on performance and the needs of the Navy, you could potentially be eligible to receive additional training in:
Advanced Rescue Swimmer School (includes swift water, high seas, cave and cliff rescue training)
Senior Enlisted AIRRs may also be selected to become:
Promotion opportunities are regularly available but competitive and based on performance. It’s also important to note that specialized training received and work experience gained in the course of service can lead to valuable credentialing and occupational opportunities in related fields.
Members of the Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations (NSW/NSO) community have any number of unique opportunities to advance their knowledge. Navy training provides skills and knowledge in everything from military tactics and small arms use to survival and a number of other tactical military procedures.
Beyond offering access to professional credentials and certifications, Navy training in the NSW/NSO community can translate to credit hours toward a bachelor’s or associate degree through the American Council on Education. You may also continue your education through opportunities like the following:
Fleet Replacement Aircrew/Mission Tactical Instructor
Navy College Program and Tuition Assistance
Post-9/11 GI Bill
Qualifications & Requirements
No college degree is required to become an Enlisted Navy AIRR, but a high degree of difficulty and satisfaction come standard with nearly everything you’ll do. Training is tough and ongoing.
To qualify for Rescue Swimmer Training, both men and women must:
Meet specific eyesight requirements: uncorrected vision no worse than 20/100; correctable to 20/20 in both eyes with normal depth and color perception
Meet the minimum Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score: VE+AR+MK+MC=210 or VE+AR+MK+AS=210
Pass a PST in DEP/Boot Camp
Pass Class 1 Flight Physical
Be 30 years of age or younger
Must be a U.S. citizen and eligible for security clearance
The chart below highlights the current minimum Navy Physical Screening Test (PST) requirements for Navy Challenge Programs.
NOTE: You should consult your physician or other health-care professional before starting any exercise regime or other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs. This is particularly true if you (or your family) have a history of medical illnesses or ailments that could be made worse by a change in physical activity. Do not start a fitness program if your physician or health-care provider advises against it.
General qualifications may vary depending upon whether you’re currently serving, whether you’ve served before or whether you’ve never served before.