A Day in the Life of a Rescue Helicopter Crewman.

From rescuing swimmers in distress, to carrying injured bushwalkers to safety, Callum Good is the youngest rescue crew officer on board the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service in Sydney. We sat down with Callum ahead of the Sun-Herald City2Surf presented by Westpac to find out how he is preparing for the race with a job that pushes his mind, and body, to the limit to help Aussies in need .

What does a day in the life of a Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Crew Officer look like?

It sounds like a cliché but no day really is the same for a rescue crew officer. I could get to work and be tasked with anything within a minute. Our Service responds to emergency and safety situations like a search and rescue mission where I’ll need to swim down and winch a drowning swimmer; a full day of shark patrols during summer; or surveillance to identify a lost bushwalker from above. Our job, is to get whoever it is that in in trouble, back to safety.

What inspired you to run the City2Surf for the first time this year?

I love a challenge and have always wanted to have a go at the City2Surf, which is such an iconic Sydney event. I just found out it’s the world’s largest fun run so it feels like it will be an epic feat. And it’s not just about running the race itself, I’m also looking to raise awareness and funds for the Southern NSW Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service, Westpac’s charity partner for the event. Through Westpac’s support over the last 45 years and through events like the City2Surf, we’re able to continue to support our local community, with no one having to pay to be rescued.

What does the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service do?

From a national perspective, the WLRHS is the longest running civilian search and rescue service in the country, and since it first started in the 1970s Westpac rescue helicopter services across the country have completed over 80,000 missions to date. In Southern NSW, the WLRHS patrols the Sydney region all the way down to Moruya, seven days a week. As a team, we work to respond quickly to emergencies that threaten the life, health and safety of those in need; whether its coastal search and rescue operations or helping those in inland emergencies including motor vehicles and transferring ill patients to hospital.

Why is it important to stay fit in your job?

I love being in a job where fitness is such a big part of how I operate. There are a lot of different physical aspects involved in what we do as rescue crew and we don’t really know what we’ll be faced with until we get the emergency call. On any given day we could be dropped into some pretty tough rescue situations where we’ll need to swim back and forth to a boat or rock ledge or pull someone out of the water. The unpredictability means you really need to be at the mental and physical top of your game, every day. 

How many times a week do you train?

I’m lucky enough to have a gym at work, so during a four-day shift block I like to get in there and do three or four weight sessions. These are usually just enough to get the heart rate up while avoiding the risk of body fatigue. I wouldn’t want to find out what it’s like doing five sets of squats then being called for a rescue.

For my job it’s important I get in the pool and swim laps, maintaining aquatic endurance with distance, sprints and breath holding exercises. I’ll also regularly get amongst the waves and currents. Wax up the board or throw on the fins – the more time I spend in the impact zone, the more chances I get to improve my rescue skills and confidence in what can be some pretty hectic sea conditions.

On my days off I love to get outdoors and stay active in ways I don’t feel like I’m training, so you’ll find me in the surf as much as possible or navigating my way through a national park on long bush walks.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Despite the obvious physical endurance that’s required, it’s working in a wetsuit – it’s hard and it gets hot! We’re often flying around for hours in a cabin and when you’re also wearing a heavy helmet, it doesn’t take long to get the core temperature up.

Mentally, it’s also a high pressure job and that’s really when focus is key. We could be dealing with a potentially life threatening scenario and on top of that, you need to stay on top of managing communications and working around medical equipment. That’s why I always take the time to unwind between shifts where I can.

How do you unwind after a shift?

Between shifts I love running along Sydney’s coastline – there are such awesome views and it’s a great way to wind down and process what’s happened that day. I also try and escape the city, turn off my phone, pack the car and go for a drive and camp in a national park. Nothing beats roasting a chicken over a camp oven, kicking back under the stars!

Final thoughts, what’s your strategy for Heartbreak Hill?  

Just keep running! I’ve been pushing my PB a little further every day, but ultimately I’m just keen to get out there and embrace the experience of running with over 80,000 people and not focus too much on the incline! It should be an awesome day out.

Join Callum who’s running for Team Westpac Choppers on August 11 by registering here. #RuntoRescue

Found out more: https://www.westpac.com.au/help/community/city2surf/