Are lifeguards of the coast guard special forces

Routes to finance

From Sgt. 1st Class Doug Probe

COAST GUARD STATION, Elizabeth City - They are a small group within the US Coast Guard, only about 300 of them servicewide. To be accepted into their ranks, candidates must endure physical and mental challenges faced by those facing a potential Army Ranger, Navy SEAL, or Air Force Pararescueman.

The Coast Guard lifeguards are the brave young men and women who hoist or fall free from a helicopter into dangerous seas to conduct daring rescues.

The lifeguard school has one of the highest failure rates of all special mission schools in the military. About 75 students go through school each year, and less than half do it.

According to Coast Guard Petty Officer Thor Wentz, who runs the school, many candidates give up before they set foot in the pool.

They are the DORs and mean 'Drop on Request. "

"What is difficult is extremely difficult," said Wentz. "We have an extremely high fluctuation rate, better than 50 percent. The not really focused people are more likely to disappear in the first few days."

Recently, he said, an entire class was broken up within the first week of training: "Twelve students came and they were all gone within the first week," he said.

According to the course curriculum, lifeguards must have flexibility, strength, and endurance, and be able to function in heavy seas for 30 minutes.

However, the 137-page operations manual contains teachings on eight different water management practices; 11 ways to approach, carry, and release a survivor; seven ways to share equipment with Navy and Air Force Airmen; and ways to untangle the services' various parachutes and backpacks.

Lifeguards must also have the skills to assist life-saving individuals prior to hospital life.

As part of their training, candidates must complete four-week emergency medical training at the Coast Guard EMT School in Petaluma, California.

"One of the most important things we look for is comfort in the water in stressful circumstances," said Wentz. "Most people, when they swim, become proficient in swimming, but when they are given water chores we start to see how people break down - they panic. "That's when we say, 'I'm sorry, you are not right about this program,'" he pointed out.

Although the overwhelming majority of lifeguards are men, unlike other special forces, the program is "all inclusive". "Wentz pointed this out. He said three women were lifeguards." It wasn't a "gimme" for them either, "he said." They were asked to do and did whatever the men did.

The first six weeks of the four-month course are loaded with lifeguard training, which Wentz said can be physically and mentally demanding. Fire hose, "he said." You get hit hard, it's all day long and it's very intense. There is no downtime. "

As they progress through the swim and class phase of their training, they will also need to take classes to learn more about the aircraft they will serve on.

Finally, candidates must pass a multiple rescue scenario test before graduation, he said.

To add even more pressure during training, the instructors treat candidates with a "sergeant-on-the-face" mentality. However, Wentz noted that such treatment is done professionally and with respect.

The candidates who are selected for the school must first attend a so-called pilot training course. The four-month course, which despite its name has nothing to do with the Air Force, helps prepare for the grueling lifeguard course.

Wentz said that during the flying phase, candidates will be introduced to life at a Coast Guard air station, but more importantly, he said they were tested to see "if they have what it takes to be a lifeguard." "We make sure that they have the mental and physical abilities to come to me for the first part of their training," said Wentz.

"Only the mental toughness is missing."

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tim Kessell, 25, has been a lifeguard for four years and has become a role model for others. He said everyone is not a lifeguard. To be one, he said, "takes a lot of conditioning."

It's easy to see why. The required monthly physical training test includes wide-arm push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, chin-ups, 12-minute crawl swim (500-yard minimum), 25-yard underwater swim, and a 200-yard buddy.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Kessell training includes push-ups, sit-ups, resistance training, and a run of up to five miles. During lunch he rides his bike.

Twice a week he spends two hours in the water conditioning his body with time-controlled laps back and forth, the Olympic pool up and down.

In one day, he performed two more graduates in a series of anaerobic exercises. Kessell used his stopwatch to time the trio when they reached the length of the pool, 25 yards in 30 seconds, paused for 10 seconds, then took off again.

"We're all working on our physical best," said Wentz. "We sell lifestyle and fitness here for a lifetime, for a career. This is the only way we can keep our employees productive."

Petty Officer 3 Class Michael Baierski, 23, a recent graduate, said becoming a lifeguard was the hardest thing he had ever done.

"If you don't have your mind 100 percent, you won't make it.

And if you don't give 100 percent every day and push yourself as hard as you can, then you're going to be kicked out of school, "he said.

Baierski said that graduating from lifeguard school means you've achieved something most people can't, which Matt Novellino, 27, of Denville, N.J., is trying to prove.

This is his second chance and his grade has gone from twelve to four.

Over the past six weeks, Josh Mros, 23, from Charleston, South Carolina, Josh Mayfield, 21, from Chesapeake, Virginia, and Ben Cournia, 25, from Bemidji, Minn., Have become close friends.

Novellino was a member of the dissolved class, and instead attended the following course.

He discussed the various challenges of the course and said that the school's teachers "look ahead at the beginning to see who will quit."

“That way, they know who's engaged. They don't want to waste. Their time,” he added.

For Cournia, it's the physical challenge. Although he is the best swimmer in the group, he does not have the upper body strength of his comrades. And despite two hours of physical exercise every morning, push-ups turns him off.

However, he said that his comrades motivate him, along with the idea that if he gives all he has, he will not be dropped.

"I know I have the ability," he said. "And I want to be a lifeguard."

As coasties, you must all be good swimmers, but everyone has approved the swimming portion of the course. “They will push you to your limits,” Mayfield said, “but you have to push your limits.

They want to see if you can go on. "

Bemidji said treatment candidates received by their teachers come from a desire to get the best out of them. "They are not bad, bad people," he said. "They get blood, but that's what they want. They really care how we do it."

How well they behave will be decided in the next 13 weeks. The four remaining students still have a long way to go, but Wentz said the four are fine so far.

Upon graduation, Novellino said he would be proud to know that he has proven what he was made of and that he achieved something that his father, a Vietnam veteran, can be proud of. "And I know he will be proud of me."

Mayfield said his graduation is likely to be a little emotional.

"It will be a blessing," he said. "Because we're going to have the best work in the world."