The Bravest People in the World

The majority of my Naval Aviation career was spent flying search and rescue missions of all types. I’ve picked up people stranded on mountain sides, lifted flood victims off stranded on rooftops, plucked sailors of stranded boats, lifted an injured sailor from the conning tower of a submarine as well as rescued survivors who have ejected from airplanes. The list goes on and on.

However, the core of the rescue mission are not the pilots sitting in the cockpit. The real heroes are the rescue aircrew men and aircrew women. The Navy calls them Rescue Aircrewmen, the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers and the Air Force, Pararescuemen. These men and women go through an arduous training program that has a very high dropout rate.

If you ever meet one, hug them because they are the bravest people i the world. They will willing jump out of an airplane or helicopter on some dark stormy night to help a survivor. I’ve seem them do this thousands of miles from land, in a driving rain, in 10,000 feet of water where there are fish than would look at you as a nice meal.

What follows is my tome to these men and women. It appeared first on the ANA Grandpaw Pettibone web site. Here’s the link.


  1. Rob Bixby on March 2, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    What can I say about this? As a young stud Rescue Swimmer, bravery never really crossed my mind. It was fun, exciting, and something very few people would do. We were all invincible. Looking back over 40 years, with the clarity of age, it sits on that fine line between brave, and stupid. I watched a shop of young kids that were so macho it was comical. Then one of them died. Those young boys instantly turned into men. That’s when it became bravery, when they knew what the risk truly was. Thank you for your kind words.

    Rob Bixby

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