Coast Guard graduates first moved rescue swimmer class after North Carolina facility deemed unsafe

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The Coast Guard graduated its first class of West Coast lifeguards last month after the elite course was forced to relocate this year due to a ‘critical facilities issue’ at its training facility. of Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

A dozen Coast Guard members became the first Aviation Survival Technicians to earn the “A” rating course at Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma. The California facility will house the AST course for several years, while the service’s rescue swimmer training center can be serviced at the Coast Guard’s Aviation Technician Training Center, or ATTC, in Elizabeth City.

Coast Guard officials described problems at the Elizabeth City facility as “security issues” and “training wear and tear,” and did not say when they were pressed for more. details.

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The $25 million facility in North Carolina, which contains a 1.2 million gallon main pool with weather and wave machines that can create stormy ocean conditions, is just 10 years old.

To prepare Petaluma for the course, AST instructors have been working since the start of the year to assess the facility and revamp the training to ensure it met “the same standards and performance requirements to graduate”, according to Lt. Cmdr. David Blue, the training manager at ATTC.

However, due to differences in facilities, some modifications have been made to techniques and training scenarios, such as teaching the Emergency Medical Technician portion of the course as a stand-alone module before the Rescue Swim portion rather than after graduation, according to the captain. Matthew Chong, commanding officer of Petaluma Training Center.

The lifeguard skills phase of the training was also split between Petaluma and Norfolk, Va. According to Chong, about 75% of the cohort have completed the course — “an all-time high,” for a program with an average attrition rate of more than half.

“The Coast Guard has a critical shortage of Aviation Survival Technicians across the company and we knew the extra work needed to make it happen was well worth the effort to continue to populate the service with these dedicated and crucial Coast Guardsmen” , Chong said in a press release. Release. “We are very happy with the success of this first class.”

The Coast Guard trains approximately 15 to 30 lifeguard swimmers each year during the 22-week course, and the coast is considered one of the most elite in the service, with approximately 350 lifeguard swimmers serving at any one time.

Aviation survival technicians deploy to crises in all types of weather and conditions, plunging into freezing Arctic waters from helicopters to rescue merchant seamen and fishermen; maneuver through hurricanes to rescue trapped people; and swing on cruise ships, shores or pleasure boats to provide medical assistance in case of emergency.

Training is expected to take place at Petaluma for up to three years, with the next course beginning this month. According to Blue, an engineering firm is designing the Elizabeth City facility repair project, with a construction contract to be awarded after that work is completed in late 2022.

Blue did not respond to questions about the cost of repairs, saying the project could continue until early 2025.

“As development of the design progresses, the cost estimate for the project will continue to be refined,” Blue said in an email to Military.com.

New graduates will go on to aviation units where they will have to complete basic aircrew training and additional lifeguard training before earning their qualifications. ASTs who remain in service are also required to attend Advanced Helicopter Rescue School within the first three years of earning their qualifications to hone and hone their skills, according to Blue.

The Coast Guard has a large backlog of construction and improvement projects for its shore facilities, totaling approximately $1.7 billion, and a deferred maintenance backlog of approximately $1 billion.

— Patricia Kime can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

Related: Construction begins on the first US Coast Guard museum

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