Aviation Survival Technicians: 60 out of 340 Seeking Exemption from Coast Guard Vaccine Mandate

Aviation Survival Technicians
An AST trains for rescue. DoD photo

Aviation Survival Technicians, or Helicopter Rescue Swimmers, are an essential part of Coast Guard operations. The elite unit is relied on for numerous tasks during emergencies as well as routine operations. And they are short handed, down by 20-30 swimmers. Not only the ASTs, but about 30 rescue pilots have sought exemption from the vaccine mandate as well. The hard line from the military on vaccine requirement has created a serious problem for these smaller units.

David Kroll, Retired AST: “The loss of even more rescue swimmers would significantly damage the force.”

[David] Kroll, a 24-year veteran of the Coast Guard who served as a rescue swimmer and trained them at the Coast Guard’s “A” school in North Carolina before retiring in July, said the Coast Guard is already at least 20-30 swimmers short of where it would like to be, and ideally would have about 380 active swimmers. Additionally, there are at least 30 of the Coast Guard’s 800 rescue pilots who are seeking exemptions.

“Most have submitted their accommodations and are waiting for an answer, but the information that they’re receiving has been varied, as has been the timeline,” Kroll said. “The response too, in regards to religious accommodations, has been varied as well. Some have heard that they may have a good chance, others have heard that it will be no’s across the board.”…

Kroll said that around 80% of the swimmers he’s spoken with are “hard no’s,” meaning that if they aren’t granted an exemption, they will opt to leave the force rather than comply with an order to be vaccinated. A loss of dozens of rescue swimmers could severely hamper the operational capabilities of the elite unit, which is critical in rescue operations around the United States.

Daily Caller (emphasis mine)

The US Military stated emphatically that religious exemptions from the vaccine would not be honored. Nearly all of the exemptions in this article are said to be religious in nature. Why? Because the military doesn’t believe that the service members believe in the religious exemption narrative. They believe it’s a ruse to get out of the vaccine.

Helicopter Rescue Swimmers- the Aviation Survival Technicians

Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryan Evans, a Coast Guard Air Station Miami rescue swimmer, signals a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter during a mock rescue with Jim Cantore, Weather Channel storm tracker, east of Miami Beach on June 6, 2017. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodall

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.

US Coast Guard

Filling those positions and training new people for them will not be cheap or easy, IF they can find suitable candidates at all. Meanwhile, SecDef Lloyd Austin babbles about climate change being an existential threat to National Security. Which is more pressing? Essential personnel to save lives or climate change?

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