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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. 

There is More to Than You May Know

Dive deeper into the world of Tactical Athlete training and mental toughness by exploring Stew Smith Fitness Programming for the Tactical Athlete online store. Uncover the strategies and techniques used by elite forces to push past physical and mental barriers. Visit now and equip yourself with the tools for success for many special ops level selection programs in the military and police world. 

New Tactical Fitness Training Course!

Getting TO the training does not guarantee you get THROUGH the training. Learn about the two phases of tactical fitness you need to develop thoroughly before getting to BUDS. Check out the Online Course - Getting TO and THROUGH Special Ops Selection.

Who is Stew Smith? Coach, Trainer, Author, Podcaster 

I'm the former Navy SEAL that special ops candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to just about anything. We have a systems where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics.  When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run, less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

My most recent programs that walk you through these four cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

New Member's Only Content / Services Program!

If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


Questions?  Just email -

At - List of Products and Services

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  3. eBooks
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