Coast Guard National Search and Rescue School celebrates 50th anniversary

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Lauren Jorgensen

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Lauren Jorgensen

Written by Lt. Natalie Bernadt 

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Matt Udkow

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Matt Udkow

Training is a crucial aspect for each and every organization. It ensures members of the organization, no matter how large, are prepared for anything that may come their way.

In the Coast Guard, it’s no different. Training literally helps save lives. The National Search and Rescue School, located at Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown, Virginia, graduates professionals from all U.S. military branches, various federal, state and local government agencies, volunteer search and rescue (SAR) organizations, as well as members of the international SAR community.

On October 10, 1966, the Coast Guard and U.S. Air Force joined forces to open the National SAR School to provide training in oceanic, coastal and inland search planning procedures. The creation of the school allowed the joint staff to be completely devoted to training SAR professionals in the art of conducting search and rescue at sea and on land.

The school started with a meager $15,000, a vacant WWII barracks building on Governor’s Island, NY, and six highly experienced Coast Guard and Air Force members. Fifty years later more than 30,000 people have joined the ranks of trained SAR professionals thanks to the school.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

U.S. Coast Guard photo

The school’s comprehensive training and standardization prepare members to be effective and forward thinking search and rescue planners. In short, this school saves lives. Its fitting motto, ‘Always Ready, That Others May Live,’ is a combination of the Coast Guard motto and the Air Force’s air rescue community.

Recently, the school celebrated their 50th anniversary with a ceremony that included Rear Adm. Matthew Bell, commander of the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center in Washington D.C., and retired Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Rummel, a 1972 graduate of the National SAR School. It also included a helicopter display and presentations by the training center’s 1790 Color Guard and Band.

Lt j.g. Lonlonyon Afanvi, a member of the Togolese Navy, graduates from the Inland and Maritime Search Planning Course. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Lt j.g. Lonlonyon Afanvi, a member of the Togolese Navy, graduates from the Inland and Maritime Search Planning Course. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“The event honors the significant contribution of the school [as well as the] Coast Guard and Air Force staff in promoting excellence in the SAR system,” said Cmdr. Erik Leuenberger, National SAR School chief.

In addition to celebrating the school’s 50th anniversary, the event recognized an Inland and Maritime Search Planning Course graduation ceremony. The course is designed to teach advanced search and rescue theory and its application to land and air searches for missing persons and aircraft.

Twenty-seven students from two countries and multiple organizations graduated, including Lt j.g. Lonlonyon Afanvi, a member of the Togolese Navy. Students were from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, West Virginia National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, and Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Weydert

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Weydert.

“Celebrating 50 years of the Search and Rescue School allowed us to recognize the exceptional training delivered to 30,000 people, including more than 2,400 international students from 150 nations,” said Capt. J. C. Vann, commanding officer of Training Center Yorktown.

The Coast Guard’s Force Readiness Command oversees all training aspects for the Coast Guard and manages all of the training centers.

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