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Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer and Navy SAR Swimmer Training

Stew smith air rescue hrss navy rescue swimmer sar swimmer

Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer and Navy SAR Swimmer Training

All over the world, these rescue specialists save lives every day.  From saving fellow military members to helping in tsunami disasters, hurricanes in New Orleans, and the daily casualties when humans get caught in the wrath of Mother Nature. The Helicopter Rescue Swimmers of the Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force have been saving thousands of people each year.  If it were not for these brave pilots and Search and Rescue (SAR) swimmers hundreds / maybe thousands of people would have died in these situations.

This article is a tribute to the sailors and airmen of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force who risked their lives everyday to save others by hanging from a helicopter and plucking hurricane victims from certain death.  If you have ever thought about becoming a Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue or Navy SAR swimmer or you may have been motivated by the heroics played live on your television set. Regardless, if you choose this job for your profession – be prepared because it is tough - the training is some of the most grueling in our military. To say you need to be a good swimmer with confident pool skills is an understatement. 

 When you arrive at Navy SAR (Search and Rescue Swimmer or USCG Rescue Swimmer School, you will be placed in a stressful environment and expected to excel in military education, close quarter living, teamwork, physical fitness tests (PFT), and swimming and treading and other pool skills.  According to the SAR Swimmer course syllabus, rescue swimmers must have flexibility, strength, endurance, and be able to function for 30 minutes in heavy seas.

However, the operations manual includes lessons in eight different water deployment procedures; 11 ways to approach, carry and release a survivor; seven ways to release equipment for Navy and Air Force flyers; and ways to detangle the services' different parachutes and backpacks.   You have to be able to think and perform challenging tasks while submerged, holding your breath, and getting tossed around my 10-20 ft. waves.

Rescue swimmers also must have the skills to provide basic pre-hospital life support for rescued individuals. And as part of their training, candidates must complete an emergency medical training course.  This is not an ordinary EMT – if you are exposed to high seas, rough terrain and other dangers and ordinary EMT will not survive.  The training you are seeking is hardcore physical and mental training that will challenge you to your core.  In fact, SAR Swimmer School boasts more than a 50% attrition rate – so it is crucial you go to the training scoring high in your PFT, but more importantly – be confident in the water.  Not cocky!  You must have a deep respect for the power of the sea, but know that your training will help save your life and the lives of the ocean’s victims.

The required monthly physical training test includes push-ups, situps, pull-ups, chin-ups, 12-minute crawl swim (500-yard minimum), 25-yard underwater swim and a 200-yard buddy tow.  I recommend the following scores to better succeed with the training course:

Navy - 500yd Swim - 8 min (free)
Pushups – 80+ in 2:00
Situps – 80+ in 2:00
Pullups – 15+
12:00 Swim – swim 500-750yd (CG)
1.5 mile run – 9:00
25 yd underwater swim – complete
200 yd Buddy tow – complete
Treading 10 min - no hands, with weight, using hands

*Though the Navy standards for entry maybe easier than my recommendations, the goal is to achieve much higher scores than the minimum standards.  EXCEEDING THE STANDARDS IS THE STANDARD!

If you are considering this profession, take an Ocean Life Guard course with the Red Cross to see if have what it takes.  You will learn how to perform the crawl stroke, underwater swim, and buddy tow properly with this preparatory Life Guard Course.

Check out the article archive at to find articles related to physical fitness tests, running faster, pullups, pushups, abdominal exercises.

 Recently, I trained some sailors who graduated SAR school and I created the Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer Workout ebook for them prior to their training.  If you prefer the BOOK version click here. Many have used the program that can be found at the store and had outstanding results.

The Navy Search and Rescue Swimmers use the same entry fitness test as the Navy SEALs, SWCC, EOD and Divers do but they can use the free style stroke instead of the CSS if they prefer.  I would recommend the freestyle stroke as you will be using that stroke consistently in your training and the job itself. Also, swimming long distances with fins is also a requirement.  Any of the following more advance PST training programs are helpful for the grind that is Navy Air Rescue Training as well as Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer Training. 

Try Workout Programming Specifically Designed for any Tactical Fitness Goal:

Which Program is Right For Me -
Special Ops Candidates



Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week

Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

Phase 2 and 3 of the Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver program is about the same level of intensity as Navy SEAL Fitness and is also a good follow-up plan after Phase 1

Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

Navy SEAL Weight Training Book
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book

The Pipeline of Training Options: 


It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  Though you will likely need to spend some time in the Navy SEAL Weight Training Book OR if Navy SEAL FItness is too challenging, go with Navy SEAL SWCC, EOD, Diver, PST Phase 1 Workout.  Phase 1 is a good starting point if Navy SEAL Fitness program is too tough. 


Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

The Warrior Workout Series - If you are solid with making your own workouts, but need some ideas.  This three part series has 300 workouts (100 / book) to pick from focusing on all the elements of fitness and training programs. Each book is organized with periodization cycles in mind along with calisthenics only, weights / calisthenics mix, cardio options and more. Warrior Workout 1   -  Warrior Workout 2  -   Warrior Workout 3. 

Personalized Training Programs
There are many more options as well as personalized training programs member's only program and the new :


Try Our Stew Smith Fitness Members Only Club - #1 Best Selling Tactical Fitness Programs

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