Sky to the sea: Behind the scenes with the U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - They are like stunts out of a movie, but the maneuvers are about two decades of experience at work and second nature for United States Coast Guard rescue swimmer Jason Mathers.

"When you get in that situation your training takes over, and it's pretty much do without thinking."

Even after 17 years of being a rescue swimmer Mathers Monday trainings are mandatory. We met up with him at their facility on John's Island as he loaded up for that day's training mission.

Then the helicopter crew, which consists of two pilots, a flight mechanic, and Mathers, makes its way to Charleston Harbor where they meet up with their boat crew around Fort Sumter. On the boat, a crew of six are in position for the rescue drill.

"Everything we do, we do it a certain way, and we train to do that stuff over-and-over again," explains Petty Officer Chad Yingling. "That way when it does come time to do the real-thing, we know step-by-step what needs to happen."

For two hours, Mathers practices all kinds of maneuvers, like free falls, where he jumps roughly 30 feet out of the helicopter. These drops can only be done during day light because the swimmers aren't hooked to the helicopter and need to be easily spotted by the crew.

Rescues with harnesses are next. Then, direct deployments, where Mathers remains hooked to the line.

"If you have someone in the water that might be in the surf or if you might see sharks in the water, we'll have to use a direct deployment to go in, get in, get them and get out really quickly."

Mathers says confidence in the training and yourself play high in a successful mission.

"When you're doing it for the real-thing, and you see people in the water, and you know you have to be the one to save them, it's just pure adrenaline, and that's why we do what we do."