So Others May Live
by U.S. Navy Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Danilo Reynoso
December 30, 2018
Amphibious assault ship USS Bataan’s (LHD 5) surface search and rescue (SAR) swimmers are trained to rescue Sailors within minutes of falling overboard, ready to risk their lives so their shipmate can live.
For Bataan’s two surface swimmers, Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Adam Tiscareno and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Trent Robinson are ready on a moment’s notice to do just that.
September 28, 2018 - Search and rescue swimmers (SAR), Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Trent Robinson and Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Adam Tiscareno pose in front of a rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB) during a boat search and rescue training at BAE Ship Repair. Robinson and Tiscareno are assigned as amphibious assault ship USS Bataan's (LHD 5) SAR swimmers. Bataan is currently undergoing a scheduled maintenance availability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Danilo Reynoso)
These two mission critical (ship-borne) rescue swimmers operate from one of the two ship boat davits 7-meter rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB), which serve as the primary search and rescue option. Tiscareno and Robinson also keep the boat deck manned during high-risk evolutions such as flight operations and when the ship is doing a swim call while deployed.
To become a SAR swimmer, you must pass one of the Navy’s most demanding and rigorous schools, Surface Rescue Swimmer School located in Jacksonville, Florida. SRSS is a four week phase based course that train Sailors on proficiency of rescue equipment, basic first aid knowledge, parachute entanglement, and multiple survivor rescues.
The first week consists of introducing all the basics required of a SAR swimmer. Week two introduces different rescue scenarios and how to handle each one with multiple survivors. Week three is the testing period where all facets and training students have learned over the last two weeks are tested. Week four is a combination of re-takes of finals and the night open water laboratory prior to graduation. SAR swimmers also receive extensive CPR and medical training to provide life support if needed during a rescue.
Tiscareno and Robinson were well prepared for the strenuous physical aspects of the school, but noted that they came out mentally stronger from their training.
“I would say the hardship of this training was the fire hose effect,” said Robinson. “You’re only there for a month and there is quite a bit you need to learn from procedures, to multiple survivor scenarios, and then the tests you take.”
Tiscareno stated “It was more of an academic and instruction struggle for me than physical. It was a crawl, walk, and run kind of learning style. As each week progresses they up the stress.”
Bataan’s swimmers aren’t just swimmers for deployment; they are swimmers for training phases and other short underway periods. While currently the Bataan is undergoing a scheduled maintenance availability, that doesn’t stop the Bataan SAR team from staying mission ready.
Bataan’s SAR officer, Ensign Bret Viola makes sure his Sailors never slack off. As a SAR officer his main function is to be administratively responsible for his swimmers. He makes sure they stay healthy and proficient in their SAR swimming capabilities. For the SAR program the swimmers are required to attend swim training twice a quarter by instruction.
For Viola, it isn’t enough for the Bataan SAR team to meet expectations, especially with such an important mission set.
“It’s one thing to be qualified it’s another thing to be proficient. So, on the Bataan we make sure to send our swimmers more than the expectation,” explained Viola. “I send them at least twice a month. You never know who’s going to be in that water. It’s going to be one of our Sailors, one of our shipmates, someone we care for. That means I’m not going to have my swimmers just meeting the requirements. They are here for a reason, to save lives.”
Tiscareno and Robinson are two selfless men who have proven they live by the SAR swimmer motto; “So others may live.” Not just words for Bataan’s SAR swimmers, it’s a way of life.
“People always ask if you had to save someone and there was a shark in the water would you?” said Robinson. “Yes, I would, because if I were that person out there by myself in the ocean I would want someone to come save me. If someone was in the water and I could help I’m going to. I wouldn’t want fear to sway a decision I would regret and have on it my conscious.”
Tiscareno mentioned, “When the three whistle blasts are broadcasted you have to be out there. It’s not about you it’s about the person in the water. Whoever is out there, it’s their worst day. They don’t know if they’ll make it back.”
For Sailors interested in becoming a SAR swimmer, potential candidates need to be clear of UCMJ violations, obtain the 2nd class swim qualification, and pass the Navy’s standard physical test for special programs (PST).