So You Want My Job: Coast Guard Helicopter Flight Mechanic

As the world becomes increasingly technological, finding a fulfilling job is becoming harder. For anyone looking for a change of pace, this might be just what you’re looking for!

The “coast guard flight mechanic salary” is the job that you have always wanted. It is an exciting, challenging and rewarding career. You will be able to see the world from a helicopter, performing tasks such as search-and-rescue missions, surveillance and law enforcement duties. The career also comes with a handsome salary of $77,000 per year.

Adam Sustachek coast guard helicopter mechanic posing with helicopter.

We’re back with another installment of our So You Want My Job series, in which we speak with guys who work in coveted positions and ask them about the realities of their employment as well as tips on how men might achieve their goals.

We’ve already covered the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Today, we’ll feature a Coastie to complete our tour of the armed forces. Adam Sustachek gives us a behind-the-scenes look at life in the United States Coast Guard. Adam, thank you so much for the fantastic interview!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself (e.g., where do you come from?). What is your age? Describe your job, including how long you’ve been doing it, and so on.

I’m Adam Sustachek, and I’m from Oceanside, California. I joined the Coast Guard in 1991 when I was 39 years old. On the Sikorsky MH60 helicopter, I am an Aviation Maintenance Technician First Class (AMT1) and a Flight Mechanic. As an AMT1, I am responsible for maintaining, repairing, and diagnosing the aircraft’s engines, rotary, and hydraulic systems, as well as correcting any damage to the airframe. As a Flight Mechanic, I am certified to deploy and retrieve the swimmer from the ocean, vessel, or land, collect any survivors, and instruct the pilot while lifting as part of the flight crew.

2. What made you want to join the Coast Guard in the first place? What drew you to this particular branch of the military?

I felt lost two years after graduating from high school. I tried college and worked in a variety of professions, from dishwasher to deli worker to security guard, but nothing seemed right. I began to party a lot and realized I needed to get my sh*t together. When my father brought it up and went me to the recruiter, I looked at other services but eventually decided on the Coast Guard. This was during Desert Storm, and the thought of saving lives rather than taking them appealed to me.

3. Because of its size and purpose, I believe the Coast Guard remains somewhat unknown to many people. Is the procedure of entering the military typically the same as it is for the other branches? Is the Coast Guard’s culture different from that of other branches?

The Coast Guard is the armed services’ smallest branch. After September 11, 2001, we became part of the Department of Homeland Security. We used to be a component of the Department of Transportation, and before that, the Treasury Department. Our pay system is comparable to that of the other services, and our rank structure is identical to that of the Navy. We’ve been mistaken for a branch of the Navy, and our assets aiding abroad may come under their direction during a conflict. So this might be the source of the misunderstanding.

Joining the Coast Guard is comparable to joining other military branches. You see a recruiter, take the entrance test, get a physical examination, sign the papers, and report to boot camp. Unless you’ve been permitted to attend a rating school straight after boot camp, you’ll most likely be sent to your first unit after graduation. Your first unit will allow you to get a sense of what the Coast Guard is all about, as well as what sort of profession you could be qualified for and desire to pursue. You put your name on the school list and wait after you’ve worked it out. If the list isn’t long enough, you’ll leave straight away. Other occupations, such as aviation, may require you to wait up to a year before being sent to one of our air stations to finish your airman training for six months before returning to school. You report to your new unit as a new Petty Officer Third Class after graduating from school and begin working!


The Coast Guard has a similar but distinct culture to the other services. Our hierarchical structure, traditions, courtesies, and rewards are almost identical. The enlisted positions, Chief’s Corp and Officer’s Corp, are available. We dress in uniform, salute our officers, and show respect for our senior enlisted members. Other military locations, as well as associated exchange and commissary businesses, are also accessible. Because we are the smallest branch of the armed services, we have a tendency to be more sociable among our ranks. We’ve become more of a family.

Adam Sustachek coast guard rescuing another coast guard from ocean through helicopter.

4. You work as a Helicopter Flight Mechanic for the Coast Guard. What level of control do you have over the work you’re assigned? Do you apply for the job you desire, and if so, what is the procedure?

Our aviation rating programs teach the fundamentals of aircraft maintenance. When the graduate is assigned to their first unit, they will begin flying training. When someone decides to pursue a career in aviation and is accepted into school, it is assumed that they will work as part of a flight crew, regardless of the kind of aircraft they fly. We’re referred to as “fixers” and “flyers.” You are either one or the other in most other services.

I asked and was granted the opportunity to fly helicopters rather than fixed-wing aircraft after graduation. You submit a CV with your choices for where you want to go next after your tour at a unit ends, which is normally three to four years. The available slots are listed on a “shopping list.” You enjoy your choices part of the time and some of the time you don’t. It’s always transient, which is fortunate for us. For the second time, I am stationed in Sitka, Alaska, which I picked. I’ve previously served in San Diego, California, Kodiak, Alaska, and Elizabeth City, North Carolina. All of them were excellent units, and I have wonderful recollections of them.

5. Describe a “normal” day at your place of employment.

Every day is a new adventure! Let’s have a look… I’m a Primary Quality Assurance Inspector, so I could spend the day examining the work done on the plane by the other mechanics or, if I’m the day’s ready Flight Mechanic, I may be launched 250 miles off the coast to rescue an injured crewmember from a tanker. We prefer to wear several hats at our units since we are a small service. There are no two days alike.

Adam Sustachek coast guard on a rescue mission.

6. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

The flying and search-and-rescue missions. The thrill of arriving on location and pulling into a hover. As you slam the cabin door wide, you see a faint light bobbing in the darkness below. “Rescue checklist part 2 complete,” you say over the intercom, motioning for the rescue swimmer to advance towards the entrance. You can feel the cold salty spray of the water only thirty feet below you. “I am prepared to deploy a swimmer.” “Roger, conn me in,” the pilot responds. “Forward and right 40,” I say to Roger, “you get in the zone.” It takes around half an hour to do what seems like an hour. The lifting evolutions are completed, the door is closed, and you’re on your way home, adrenaline still racing. You help the swimmer to calm and stabilize the survivor. Nothing compares to the satisfaction of saving someone’s life.


7. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

When they are unable to make it. We were involved with a case out of Kodiak, Alaska, when a 5-year-old kid went missing in a rural community. We discovered him face down in the sea on the beach. He couldn’t swim after falling from a ten-foot precipice. We landed in a field behind the house, raced down, got the child, and loaded him and his mother into the chopper. We tried CPR all the way back to Kodiak, but he was no longer alive……

8. How do you strike a balance between job, family, and personal life?

Great! The wonderful thing about our planes is that we don’t have to deploy them very often. You’ll deploy to isolated places for 2-4 weeks at a period either Kodiak, AK or Clearwater, FL, but that’s all. Due to search and rescue, law enforcement, or technical concerns, most other MH60 units may be deployed for up to 2-3 nights.

Coast guard on a rescue mission with helicopter.

9. What is the most common misunderstanding regarding your profession or the Coast Guard in general?

Most individuals believe that our assets are restricted to our local waterways. This isn’t the case at all. We, like the other agencies, have small boats, ships, and law enforcement teams that deploy all over the globe. We help enforce maritime treaties, remove ice from shipping routes throughout the winter, and teach other nations’ coast guards.

10. Do you have any other advice, ideas, or stories to share?

If you’re a boater, make sure you have all of the necessary survival gear and take a boater’s safety course. The water is unpredictably unpredictable, and circumstances might shift at any time. For you or your loved ones, it might be the difference between life and death. Stay safe by wearing your life jackets.



The “coast guard amt asvab requirements” is a job that requires applicants to have an average score of at least 36 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.

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