What The United States Coast Guard Can Teach You About Getting An EMS Helicopter Job

Job Tips for Future Flight Nurses, Flight Medics & EMS Pilots


Confrontations with Drug Smugglers – 23
Total drugs confiscated – 66,000 lbs
Street value of seized cocaine – $1.01 billion
Watching one drug cartel submarine sink
to the bottom of the ocean …. priceless!

An epic month for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Intercepting a billion dollars worth of drugs and keeping it off American streets is no small accomplishment. And easy as it is to get caught up in the excitement, a better approach is asking what we can learn from it?

What Can We Learn

Is there anything the Coast Guard can teach us about how to get an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) flying job?

Can we model Coast Guard success to achieve our goal of flying air medical?

The answer is yes, absolutely.

This article gives you 3 tools to get started.

Looking for drug smugglers in open ocean is like searching for a needle in a haystack. It’s extremely difficult work. Big ocean, small drug boat (or in this case, submarine). Even with state-of-the-art technology, the challenge is daunting.

Pinpointing the exhaust stack of a homemade submarine designed to elude radar and visual detection is no easy task. It’s hard work even for the Coast Guard.

So how do they do it? And what can we learn from them?

Pro Hacks for Getting An EMS Helicopter Job

1.) Follow a Plan

Nothing in the Coast Guard happens by chance.

You don’t just “show up” and start looking around for drug smugglers. Success is always preceded by planning. Coast Guard men and women plan, prepare and train relentlessly.

The Coast Guard does drug interdiction 24/7/365. Executing these missions with precision takes planning.

Lesson: If you want to fly, you need to follow a plan.

“Winging it” in today’s extremely competitive environment for flight jobs will not get you the results you want.

If you’re serious about flying, you need a serious plan.

Sit down right now and flesh out your personal flight plan. Use mind-map software, pen and pencil, crayola… whatever you prefer. The key is to take action and do it. The act of writing down your goals is critical. So is following a plan.

2.) Be Ready

The Coast Guard Motto is “Semper Paratus” —Always Ready

Finding a needle in a haystack is one thing, apprehending drug smugglers by force and confiscating over 66,000 pounds of cocaine is entirely another thing.

Both jobs require a constant state of readiness.

Lesson: If you want to fly, you need to be ready too.

How tragic would it be to get called for a short-notice flight interview and not have a resume? Or cover letter? Or suit and tie?

It sounds silly, but at Flight Safety Network we’ve pretty much seen it all at when it comes to flight interview preparation (and lack of). And that’s not a bust on any of our coaching students. They’re some of the most talented nurses, paramedics, and pilots in the country. But talent alone isn’t enough. Talent does not equal preparation.

To fly air medical, you’ll need both.

3.) Partner Up

The Coast Guard never goes it alone.

The Coast Guard partners with any agency that can help them accomplish their mission. The Drug Enforcement Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Foreign Coast Guards and other agencies within the Department of Homeland Security to name just a few.

Lesson: You need partnerships too.

Your personal and professional network is key to a successful air medical career. You’ll need a strong network in place both to get, and to keep an air medical flight crew job.

You can also read about the EMS success secrets of air medical new hires here. And check out Flight Safety Network free training videos here. 

How To Get Started

How do I get started?

I don’t have the time, money, and resources of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Fair enough. But realize getting a flight job is about doing the very best with what you have.

No matter how good you get in EMS and air medical, there will always be someone better. Someone with more connections, more time, or just plain more drive.

I know that can be a bit of a blow for some of the strong personalities in emergency medical services, but it’s true. Realize the best you can do is exactly that. The best you can do.

The question is whether or not you’re currently doing it?

You don’t have to plan or execute with the same precision as the U.S. Coast Guard. But you do need to do all the tasks mentioned well.

Follow a plan, be ready, and partner up to accelerate your success getting an air medical flight crew job.


Ready to go pro? Get your own step-by-step, connect-the-dots Insider Flight Plan here.


Troy Shaffer
Troy Shaffer

About the Author: Troy is an Air Medical Career Expert passionate about a team approach to improving air medical safety from the ground up. Troy is a former Army medic, Army pilot, Coast Guard pilot and EMS pilot. Troy has taught hundreds of wannabe flight medics, flight nurses and EMS pilots the exact steps needed to launch air medical careers.

    2 replies to "What A Submarine Drug Bust Can Teach You About Getting An EMS Flight Crew Job"

    • Lubo Vnuk

      Can someone explain me,what is the difference between flight nurse and flight medic? (In my country the crew is Doctor,Paramedic and Pilot) Thanks.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thanks for a great question. The two main differences are qualifications and pay. In general terms, flight nurses hold higher qualifications and medical certifications than flight medics. This also results in higher pay for flight nurses. Some of this is changing as the air medical industry evolves, but that’s the general overview of how it works in the United States.

        I hope this helps you.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

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