main story image for facebook sharing

Focus on Service

Swimming to Save

An Opportunity this Sailor Never thought Possible

On a warm and sunny Florida day, Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 1st Class Harrison Greenmaki sits in the hangar bay, his calm and humble presence doesn't reflect that of a seasoned naval rescue swimmer. The phrase 'you can't judge a book by its cover' is the only way to really describe this Sailor.


I sat down with Greenmaki to listen to his story, and as we continued the interview I began to really understand why he felt grateful for the opportunity to be a rescue swimmer.

If you would've told me my job when I first joined the navy would be to jump out of a perfectly good helicopter and have the opportunity to save someone's life, I would never believe you," - AWS1 Harrison Greenmaki


To him the idea of swearing his life to save others came as a sense of responsibility to our country after the dark moment on Sept., 11. Giving him the need to contribute and soar out over the open water to help those in need.

"I was in seventh grade when I saw that. And I guess that might have just been the flip of the switch that made me want to join the military, to contribute to society, to actually benefit it and to help it out," said Greenmaki.

With birds crying in the air and the water to our backs he began to credit the successes he has had to the people around him and bond he had with them that have made it possible for him to help others.


"Being able to rely on someone like that entails a huge trust factor, because in the end you have to put your life in their hands and they have to their life in your hands and that's why it's important that we build a tight-knit comradery," said Greenmaki.

As he started to talk about his responsibility he had to so many people, the reality of this began to sink in, if he didn't take that responsibility seriously. But to him it was just another part of the job, and actually a part that he enjoyed.

"You're basically the life line to the person themselves, or the family member who is standing there waiting nervously, it makes me feel humble to be able to help someone out like that," reflected Greenmaki, his expression deep in thought.

And just like that the interview came to an end and Greenmaki began to dress out to fly back out onto the open water, training to help those in need.


Rescus swimmer's equipment
Snorkel: Made of a flexible hose with mouthpiece attached to a solid upper tube.
Mask: A wraparound mask for maximum field of view.
TRI-SAR harness: Assembly designed to combine the security of a full-body harness with the comfort of a seat harness. When being hoisted, the harness provides a slightly reclined seated position, allowing total use of the rescuer's hands. The integrated flotation vest has a minimum buoyancy of 35 lbs. and includes three pockets for stowage of survival items.
Radio: Noncombat emergency communication radio and emergency location beacon transmitter.
Gloves: Combination of durability, warmth and dexterity.
N-SAR knife: Features a blunted tip to prevent punctures and a blade hook to quickly and safely cut straps.
Wet suit: Protects against exposure to cold water, wind and spray.
Smoke signal: One-handed operable device, used for either day or night signaling.
Rescue strop "Horse collar": Inherently buoyant device designed to accommodate on uninjured survivor.
Swim fins: Solid pliable fins designed for maximum power.
Strobe: Light emits a high-intensity flashing light that is visible for great distances at night.
Chemlight: Provides 6 hours of 360 degree illumination that can be seen up to a mile away.
MEDEVAC litter: designed for in water, shipboard, mountain, and other restricted area recues. The litter folds in half for shipboard movement, rappelling, backpacking, or stowage fully rigged. It weighs approximately 40 pounds measures 80 inches long and 16 1/2 inches wide.

For more information on Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City, click here.