The Guardians: Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers On the Job

Scott Gordon
Scott Gordon
John Stockton was rescued by the Coast Guard in 2002
John Stockton was rescued by the Coast Guard in 2002
Gordon is married with three children
Gordon is married with three children
TWA Flight 800 exploded after takeoff in 1996, killing all 230 on board
TWA Flight 800 exploded after takeoff in 1996, killing all 230 on board

by Joann Shin

(KHNL) The call goes out. On this day, Scott Gordon is the rescue swimmer on duty.

"When you're getting ready to go out, there's always a moment of anxiety, you don't know what you're getting into," explained Gordon.

Gordon isn't taking a leap of faith. He knows exactly what he's doing.

He said, "We're out there to save someone."

On this day, Gordon is training, but he treats every exercise like it's the real deal.

"The training is important if you didn't get proper training before you go out, someone's life may be on the line."

A rescue swimmer has the support team of a pilot, co pilot and flight mechanic, but the moment he leaves this chopper he is pretty much on his own.

"You have to have good leadership skills, you have to take charge of situation, you have to be very calm in a crisis."

It's critical a rescue swimmer is physically fit and mentally tough.

"It's pushing yourself beyond your limits in what you can do."

Gordon is a husband, a father of three and a 13 year veteran. He's been part of some high profile rescues. On July 30, 2002, a kayaker was missing at sea 120 miles southwest of the island of Hawaii.

"We were wondering if we were ever going to find him."

Finally search teams find John Stockton.

"It was just an absolute miracle that i was found that far out," said Stockton in July of 2002.

Gordon is the first to get to him.

"Man am I glad to see you. Those were his exact words," recounted Gordon.

On November 16, 2003 a small plane goes down after it has engine failure 94 miles north of Maui. The pilot is retired Coast Guard.

Gordon explained, "When we showed up on scene, we weren't sure if he was even alive or not."

But William Swears is alive.

"The spotlight on the helicopter, you can see the plane broken in pieces and him hanging them," said Gordon.

Not all emergencies have happy endings.

Gordon said "It was one of the most emotional cases, I've been on."

July 17th, 1996-- Long Island, New York. Gordon, stationed in Brooklyn gets the call.  TWA flight 800, a boeing 747 explodes shortly after take-off.

"That was so surreal, to see over 100 people in the water dead."

All 230 on board are killed.

"The next day, I had the hardest time taking it all in," he said.

But Gordon has to move forward, because this is his job.

"The Coast Guard motto of rescue swimmers is 'So others may live' and that pretty much sums it right there, we do our job so others may live".