Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Sweeney: I'm Joshua Sweeney. I'm an E3 in the United States Navy. I'm a rescue swimmer. I'm just living the dream out here in Hawaii. I fly in the back of helicopters. I'm a sensor operator. AW is my rate, Aviation Warfare Systems Operator.
Hardest moment in the military for me has been probably just the pipeline to become a rescue swimmer. In my SAR school, if I can remember correctly, we started out with 27 people. We got dropped to 20 people the very first day, and then after that, only four of us graduated from the original class. Very demanding, both physically and mentally.
The level of responsibility in my job is incredible. There is a lot of responsibility placed on us. Because not only am I ensuring the safety of myself, but the safety of my crew as well, and the crew that's down on the ground on the ship. You know, I can be flying around, just enjoying the sight, and then all of a sudden we get a radio call that there's a down boat 15 miles off the coast. The Coast Guard isn't able to react. We're the closest asset in the area. So, therefore, we're going in.
There's a lot of things going through my mind, you know. How many people's in the water? Is there fuel in the water? Is anybody hurt? Is there kids involved? And that's where you have to sit back, relax and be like, OK, what's the smartest thing I can do in this situation? What's the best choice, best option?
During a rescue, we have two crewmen, one's gonna be the hoist operator slash crew chief. He's pretty much gonna be in charge of getting you out the door safely, getting you in there, and keeping you appraised with a running commentary of what's going on. OK, swimmer's approaching survivors. Swimmer's disentangling survivor, and kind of let him know what's going on, and if I need anything, floatation, medical kit, rescue litter, anything like that. All I can do is look up at the helicopter, give him a signal. He's gonna send it down to me.
I don't even know how to describe how you would — you're in the water, and 10 feet above your head is this huge machine blowing hurricane-force winds in your face, water stinging you, you know, and it's just, wow, this is awesome. This is awesome.
It really makes you feel good to know that you're a part of something bigger, and you're doing better for not just yourself, but for a lot more people. This is not a selfish job at all. It's all about saving others, and that's what our motto is for SARS, "So others may live." So we kinda live and die by that motto.