Aviation Survival Technician

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Aviation Survival Technician
Aviation Survival Technician rating badge.png
Rating insignia
Issued by: United States Coast Guard
Type Enlisted rating
Abbreviation AST
Specialty Aviation
A rescue swimmer from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is hoisted back into an HH-60 Jayhawk after retrieving a rescue training dummy.

Aviation Survival Technician is the United States Coast Guard term for its "rescue swimmers". They are trained at the U.S. Coast Guard's enlisted Aviation Survival Technician/Rescue Swimmer school at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The challenging job is featured prominently in the 2006 film The Guardian, starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher.

Training and qualification[edit]

Coast Guard rescue swimmers from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City train off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The course is 24 weeks long. The course includes instruction on rescue techniques, helicopter deployment techniques, and myriad technical skills from small engine repair to parachute packing and maintenance. Successful completion of this course results in being awarded the Aviation Survival Technician rating, the technical rating for a variety of aircraft and survival equipment maintenance.[1]

After completion of A-School, all AST' are sent to Training Center Petaluma, California to attend the Coast Guard's Emergency Medical Technician school. After three weeks of EMT training, they must take and pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians-Basic (NREMT-B) test as part of their qualification as a helicopter rescue swimmer.

Full qualification as a rescue swimmer can take up to a year from the first day of A-School, as graduates must learn the aircraft systems and emergency procedures of their assigned aircraft. The rescue swimmer training program has a high student attrition rate, like other special operations schools in the military.[2]

Prior to a realignment of enlisted aviation rates throughout the Coast Guard circa 1999, the AST rate was called ASM, Aviation Survivalman.

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