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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.
The initial five-month AST course covers Helicopter Rescue Swimmer Procedures and Aviation Life Support Equipment (ALSE) fundamentals.
Advanced courses are Emergency Medical Technician, Advanced Helicopter Rescue School, Operational Fitness Training, and Survival Instructor resident courses.
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.