SURFOR Answers SAR Readiness Challenges

By Naval Surface Forces Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO, CA – Readiness challenges due to sourcing Search and Rescue (SAR) swimmers for surface ships have been solved by a Surface Forces (SURFOR) Barrier Removal Team (BRT) led by the Surface Warfare Enterprise’s Personnel Readiness Team (PRT) and the Cruiser Squadron (CGRON). The SWE is a $25 billion enterprise committed to providing the most powerful, dominant and adaptable surface warfighters and ships with maximum efficiency and careful stewardship of resources.

In the past, SAR swimmers were sourced from the crew of each ship but due to the voluntary nature of the program and the high physical standards required, ships were severely challenged to identify crewmembers able to complete the rigorous training. Most ships required a minimum of two SAR swimmers to be onboard to support all underway operations which created a significant burden. Valuable funds were also wasted while qualified SAR swimmers shuffled between commands to meet underway requirements. The affect on Sailors was also negative with retention challenges caused by consecutive deployments. A more efficient and cost effective method of meeting this critical readiness requirement was needed.

The SAR Swimmer Barrier Removal Team (BRT) was created to address this problem. CGRON headed the team comprised of members from SURFOR, the Enlisted Distribution Division, SAR Model Manager, Afloat Training Group-Pacific, the Production Management Office and other stakeholders. The BRT focused on the core issues associated with the ship’s challenges;

  • identifying potential talent pools to assist in meeting SAR swimmer standards
  • detailing qualified personnel to key readiness billets efficiently

The BRT identified the Boatswain's Mate (BM) “A” school as a primary source from which to draw future candidates for SAR training. BMs will be screened during their “A” school and sent to SAR school en route to their duty stations. Consequently, swimmers will show up to the ship qualified, mitigating the pressure on smaller crews to produce the requisite two SAR swimmers required to get underway. This new process will also improve quality of life for current SAR swimmers and save valuable temporary duty funds.

The efforts of the BRT are now in the execution phase with plans to detail the first SAR swimmers this summer using this process. The arrival of qualified SAR swimmers on quarterdecks will directly reflect the hard work done by the collaborative efforts of the SAR BRT to address a readiness issue and create a solution that works fleet wide to provide Warships Ready for Tasking.