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Aviation Survival Technician

Related Civilian Jobs: 

  • Commercial Aircraft Life Support Equipment Technician
  • Aircraft Ground Handler
  • Parachute Rigging and Repair
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Land and Water Survival Instructor
  • Aviation Maintenance Instructor
  • Aircraft Mechanic
  • Supply Technician
  • Quality Assurance Inspector

Helicopter Rescue Swimmer Capabilities:

The RS must have the mental capacity, flexibility, mobility, strength, power, agility, endurance, and equipment to function for at least 30 minutes in heavy seas, on unstable platforms, on rugged terrain during severe adverse weather conditions. The RS must also possess Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) skills in order to provide basic pre-hospital life support for the rescued individual(s).

In addition, the RS shall have the survival training, knowledge, understanding, and experience to survive at sea or on land if left onscene for greater than 24 hours.

The RS shall have the ability to safely and effectively extricate survivors from roof tops, fully understand the hazards and how to negotiate flood and swift water, and understand and utilize high angle ropes rescue techniques.

Trained to operate in a variety of maritime environments, ASTs are highly conditioned rescue and survival experts, as well as highly capable aviation life support equipment technicians. While serving as Helicopter Rescue Swimmers, ASTs may find themselves deployed into a myriad of challenging scenarios ranging from hurricanes and cliff rescues to emergency medical evacuations from ships at sea. Whether in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, or any of the many Coast Guard Air Stations within the continental United States, ASTs train year-round to prepare mentally and physically for the challenges they may face as Helicopter Rescue Swimmers.

Equally important to their role as Helicopter Rescue Swimmers, ASTs are trained to inspect, service, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair: cargo aerial delivery systems, drag parachute systems, aircraft oxygen systems, helicopter emergency flotation systems, portable dewatering pumps, air/sea rescue kits, and special-purpose protective clothing. Further responsibilities include the storage and handling of aviation ordnance and pyrotechnic devices.

ASTs also facilitate survival training such as swim tests, land/sea survival lectures, and shallow water egress training. They can perform ground handling/servicing of aircraft, conduct routine aircraft inspections, and aviation administrative duties.

As a collateral responsibility, an AST may be expected to fill aircrew positions such as HC-130 Dropmaster or Loadmaster, Sensor Systems Operator, and Helicopter Basic Aircrewman.

Types of Collateral Duty:

ASTs are stationed at Coast Guard Air Stations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.  ASTs may serve at large or small Air Stations servicing HC-130J (Hercules), HC-27 (Spartan), HC-144 (Ocean Sentry), HH-60T (Jayhawk), and MH-65D (Dolphin) aircraft.

Training Available:

The initial six-month AST 'A' school covers Helicopter Rescue Swimmer Procedures and Aviation Life Support Equipment (ALSE) fundamentals. 'A' school is followed by a seven-week EMT course. 

Advanced courses are Emergency Medical Technician, Advanced Helicopter Rescue School, Operational Fitness Training, and Survival instructor resident courses. 

Annex-X Program

If a member meets all the physical standards at the recruiter office and Cape May Training Center, they will be sent to a preferred unit so they have the ability to train in preparation for AST school.  Every AST candidate now receives an AST mentor to help guide them through the whole process and answer any questions they may have.  Every AST candidate now attends a one week "PREP" or preparatory class at ATTC about three months before school to give a glance on what school is about and they receive an assessment from the instructors on what they need to work on to be successful at AST school. 

Ask your recruiter about the Annex-X Program if interested in the AST rate!


All ASTs must be in superior physical shape with no chronic orthopedic problems, possess a high level of mental acuity and outstanding military bearing. Training is extremely stressful and is designed to identify those candidates who possess the physical and mental skills to handle the rigors of being a helicopter rescue swimmer. A high degree of confidence in, around, and underneath the water is required.  An aptitude for mechanics as well as school courses in algebra, geometry, and machinery are very helpful. Additionally, candidates must pass an aircrew-candidate physical and qualify for a "secret" security clearance. 

Further Reading: