In the Navy, there are two types of Search and Rescue (SAR) swimmers: Ship-based SAR and airborne SAR (usually in rescue helicopters). Both are side gigs.

Usually, a boat person (insert Navy ship job) will apply for SAR school and learn the ins and outs of operating off the boat as a search and rescue swimmer. Typical missions would be recovering a man overboard or refugees lost at sea.

Airborne operations are usually conducted with helicopters. Airborne SAR swimmers have very different and more extensive training operating around aircraft and rescuing pilots, which is their primary mission. An Aviation Rescue Swimmer, or AIRR, will attend boot camp and then Aircrewman Candidate School, their specialty “A” School, SAR school, and SERE school. They will also have to earn their gold aircrew wings and train to be a plane captain and later a crew chief.

I did this job and flew in the back of Rescue Helicopters before becoming a Navy SEAL. It’s a job and community I’m proud to belong to. My primary job was as an Aviation Warfare Systems Operator (AW). I operated the dipping sonar and flight systems in the back to track targets.