Henry Richard, a member of Manchester Essex Regional High School’s most recent graduating class, will depart his hometown of Essex in one month to begin U.S. Navy basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago, Ill.
Basic training will last for two months, he said. In those months, he will learn the basics of navy life, naval terminology, and how to transition from civilian to military life.
Following basic training, Richard will begin training in Pensacola, Fla. to become an Aviation Rescue Swimmer. Training for the job will last two years, after which he will enter active duty for four years. Within those four years, he hopes to take classes to earn a bachelor’s degree, he said.
Richard said Aviation Rescue Swimmers (AIRR) work with Navy SEALs and Navy Divers. AIRRs are classified under “special warfare,” he said, which means his job is geared towards emergency response.
According to the U.S. Navy, “Aviation Rescue Swimmers are tasked with entering treacherous conditions to assist with rescue missions, humanitarian assistance, and operational support.”
Rescue swimmers must complete extensive physical training and pass Physical Screening Test Requirements, which include specifications for swimming, running, push-ups, and sit-ups.
Richard said he decided to join the Navy in October.
“I wasn’t really interested in school at the time,” he said. “School wasn’t something I really wanted to go to right after high school.”
While his classmates toured colleges during their junior year, Richard contemplated joining the Navy, he said.
“Especially coming from Manchester Essex, most people would just go to school. That’s what’s expected of them,” he said.
Richard said he is allowing his interests to guide him on his post-secondary path.
“No one in my family has been in the military. I’m going to be the first one. It’s just something that I was interested in at the time and decided to go that route,” he said.
Richard said he wants to be a rescue swimmer because AIRRs are EMT-certified, and he will learn to perform surgery.
“I’m interested in the medical side of things,” he said.
Richard said if he chooses to eventually leave the Navy, he would want to attend medical school.
“The rescue swim program would be a great thing to have on my record,” he said, “and I’ll know a lot of things ahead of time before I would choose to go to med school, so that’s probably the route I would go if I decide to leave.”
Richard said since he enlisted in October of 2020, he has been training on his own in order to prepare for the physical demand of naval training.
“I love working out,” he said. “I go swimming in the pool and ocean.”
When Richard is not working out, he is landscaping in Gloucester, Mass. and enjoying the summer with his best friends.
“All my friends and everyone I talk to about it, they’re excited for me, and they don’t care that I’m not going to college yet. They think it’s a good thing for me to do to get a free education, travel the world, get all these benefits... which is a really nice part of the military,” he said.