They are the US Coast Guard elite corps and have undergone the US Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Training programme in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. This extremely tough academy selects the best rescue swimmers in the world, who are able to reach a person in difficulty in water in any adverse environmental condition.
Known amongst coast guards as the A-school, this academy puts candidates through a tough 18-week selection of gruelling physical trials, from which the best men of the Coast Guard graduate to become members of a special rescue team, travelling on board helicopters and ready to face any sea emergency. The heart of the system is a sophisticated simulator, which faithfully reproduces the worst marine weather conditions in an indoor pool: the aspiring rescuers have to pass increasingly tougher and more selective tests.
The Rescue Swimmers are a team trained to save people in difficulty: in order to do this they dive alone, in nightmare conditions, into water ranging from sub-zero temperatures to hurricanes. During hurricane Katrina, the Coast Guard, drawing on over 80 rescue swimmers, saved over 33,000 people.
One of the most dramatic examples of a sea rescue by the Rescue Swimmers was during hurricane Sandy, on 29th October 2012, 100 miles east of the North Carolina academy: a wooden sailing boat sank with 16 people on board while winds of over 75 mph and giant waves lashed the surface of the sea. Two Rescue Swimmers managed to save 15 people in impossible sea conditions, and lifted the unfortunate yachtsmen on board the helicopters.