The Coast Guard Aviation Association met in Mobile for their annual convention to celebrate their centennial. It was also the 50th anniversary of the Aviation Training Center here in Mobile. 12 Coast Guard aviation survivalmen were honored Saturday during the celebration.
When the Coast Guard realized they’d need crewmen to actually jump out of aircraft and swim to rescue people in the water, retired Master Chief Petty Officer Butch Flythe was one of the first to step forward.
“I kind of feel unworthy. I just was doing my job and somebody nominated us for the induction and it was quite a surprise,” says Butch Flythe.
Today he was inducted into the Hall of Honor at Mobile’s Aviation Training Center along with 11 other instructors.
“The Coast Guard implemented the helicopter rescue swimmer program and it was put inside one of our ratings called the aviation survivalmen rate. There was a mandate that came out and said by 1990 you have to be a rescue swimmer, or make Chief Petty Officer or change your rating. So there were a lot of guys midway through their career who suddenly had to go through swimmer school,” says Flythe.
Flythe later became an instructor for the school. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Aviation Training Center in Mobile. With over 500 active duty military and civilian personnel, it’s one of the larger non-industrial employers in the city, generating nearly $98 million in payroll impact to Mobile and surrounding counties. And it holds a special place in these aviator’s hearts.
“Every aviator in the Coast Guard comes to Mobile for initial training of the aircraft, and then returns once a year also for their proficiency training. And so this place is known to most in the coast guard, coast guard aviators as “Mother Mobile”,” says Tom MacDonald, Commanding Officer at the Aviation Training Center.
Aside from the ceremony, family members of active duty personnel were able to tour current and historic Coast Guard aircraft. At ATC Mobile, a crew is ready to launch within 30 minutes of notification for a search and rescue mission. And they will tell you, it’s a rewarding life choice.
“It is a great life. The Coast Guard is a smaller service, you know everybody especially in aviation. It’s just a very rewarding community and we support each other,” says Flythe.