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Search and rescue pilot

Bringing people home safely

By Deon Mitton

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jordan Long’s lifelong aspiration to fly was sparked at the age of 5 when a South African Police Service Bölkow Bo 105 helicopter landed in a shopping mall parking lot, an event that also made the Bo 105 his favorite helicopter to this day.

Photography Deon Mitton.
Zoomed image
Photography Deon Mitton.

Long has served for more than 16 years combined, in the U.S. Army and U.S. Coast Guard. He started his aviation career as a U.S. Army medevac pilot, which led to more EMS helicopter air ambulance experience. In the U.S. Coast Guard, Long qualified as a search and rescue (SAR) pilot and is now based in Kodiak, Alaska.

“Of all the services one can provide with their airplane or helicopter, in my opinion, there is no better service to people than helping someone,” Long said. “Saving someone’s life, rescuing them from danger, or simply just dropping off lifesaving equipment in my opinion is the epitome of what these magnificent machines were built to do, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a career.”

Long says search and rescue in Alaska is unlike anywhere else the U.S. Coast Guard serves. The year-round rapidly changing conditions make every mission challenging.

“AIRSTA Kodiak is a unique and challenging unit to serve in,” Long said. “As a military aviator, my tour in Alaska will surely go down as one of my most challenging assignments.”

All aviators assigned to Alaska are “second tour” fully mission qualified search and rescue pilots who have at least four years of experience, normally more, as there is very little time to train and teach here. They spend their first year here in an “exposure syllabus” learning the intricacies of each season and the hazards they each present. Long says Alaska is a demanding place to work, but a rewarding place to live and serve. He advises anyone who is interested in joining the U.S. Coast Guard to persist toward their goal.

“The road is long and winding, the challenges are ever present, but the office views are unbeatable once you make it up to the front seat,” he said. “When I was starting my pursuit of aviation in the military someone told me that the application and selection process is tough for a reason, to weed out those who really want it, from those that think they want it. If you really want it, nothing will stand in your way from achieving your career goals.”

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