ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- At first glance, the water of the Arabian Gulf looks almost dreamy but upon further inspection one can see the thousands of tiny jellyfish floating just outside the safety of the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB). Add the sea snakes, sharks and various other sea creatures that lurk below.
These waters and the scene is more of a nightmare for most.
With no hesitation or second thought to the dangers that might be awaiting her, Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Katherine Roy from Middletown, Connecticut, jumps into the deep unknown waters.
She quickly holds up one finger to signal to the rest of the crew still in the RHIB that all is good and that she is ready to start the training evolution.
Roy is a search and rescue swimmer (SAR) assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). She has been in this role for a little more than two years now but has been swimming her entire life.
"I grew up in the water and swam competitively," said Roy. "When I heard that the command needed a replacement swimmer for the individual that was leaving, I knew I had to try out for it."
That is exactly what Roy did. She tried out for the position and once they reviewed her qualifications they agreed to let her perform the swimmer fitness test (SFT). The test consists of four pull-ups, a 500-meter equipment swim and a 400-meter buddy tow in 27 minutes or less. Passing this test is required for all SAR swimmers.
"I saw a bunch of guys go in there before me and not make it, so I knew I had to really give it my all," said Roy.
After successfully completing the SFT, Roy then went on to participate at a four-week-long course at the Rescue Swimmer School (RSS) in San Diego.
At RSS, Roy learned various techniques and methods to save those in need. The training included teaching the swimmers how to find, rescue and stabilize any individual they may find in distress.
"The training was really intense," said Seaman Derek Evans, a SAR swimmer, from Austin, Texas. "There are just so many scenarios that it takes a lot of practice to cover each possibility."
Due to the large amount of information and skills needed to be successful, SAR swimmers continue training with both the medical team as well as the SAR team upon returning to their command.
After completing RSS in San Diego, Roy returned to the Nimitz ready to put her training to work. Thankfully, she says she has yet to have any real calls that have required the team to respond, although there have been plenty of drills to keep her and the rest of the SAR crew ready in case of an actual scenario.
"A lot of times they don't tell us if it is a drill or an actual call so we treat them all like they are real," said Roy. "It's important to respond to each scenario as if they were life and death situations because one day they really could be."
Roy has experienced first-hand the potential complications that might arise when responding to those calls.
"There have been plenty of times that things don't go perfectly," said Roy. "I have definitely had a few scares while out on a drill, we all have. Thankfully we have a great crew so that when things don't go exactly as planned we have the resources to come back from the scenario safely."
Though not every drill is a perfect one, Roy continues to volunteer to be a SAR swimmer because of the overall joy she gets from doing so.
"I'm not a fearless hero," Roy laughs. "I just really love swimming and if I can potentially help someone doing so, that makes it even better."
The love that she has for what she does is evident as the drills finish and she climbs back into the safety of the boat. Though the team has been vigorously training all morning, Roy has the biggest grin on her face. According to Roy, there's no better way to start the day.
Nimitz is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.
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For more news from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn68/.