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THE GUARDIAN

Introducing The Unsung Heroes of the Sea
There are many kinds of heroes in this world. There are the well-known lifesavers we encounter every day—firefighters, policemen and doctors—and then there are those who work mainly in the shadows, who will risk anything and everything to save total strangers under the most extreme and rare of circumstances. In this category are the Coast Guard's extraordinary but little-known Rescue Swimmers.

These brave men and women are an elite few possessing the uncommon physical and mental fortitude to free-fall from helicopters directly into raging seas and massive storm-floods to rescue those in harm's way, no matter the costs. Though rarely celebrated publicly, the Coast Guard saves in the vicinity of 5,000 lives and $2.5 billion worth of property in an average year—and during the devastating 2005 hurricane season, they rescued or evacuated an estimated 33,520 people in the Gulf States ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The teeth-gritting training program of the Rescue Swimmers is considered the toughest in all of the military—with nearly 50% of those who enter dropping out. And for those remarkable few who actually make it, what lies ahead are perilous missions in the darkest, coldest, roughest waters known to humankind, where they must battle disorientation, exhaustion, hypothermia and lack of oxygen while trying to help the stranded, the panicked and those who have given up all hope.

In just 20 years of existence, the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer program has become one of the most respected in the entire military profession. The Rescue Swimmer program was first mandated by Congress in 1984, after a cargo ship tragically lost 31 crew members to stormy waters on the Eastern Seaboard with only one courageous but outmatched naval helicopter unit to assist. Since then, the Rescue Swimmer program—the only one of its kind open to both men and women—has developed into a crack unit called upon whenever disasters involving high water strike.

Yet their code of quiet bravery has meant that their stories have rarely been told. Many Americans had never seen them in action until the unforgettable news clips of helicopters plucking victims from the rooftops and floodwaters of New Orleans. Now THE GUARDIAN story of a legendary Rescue Swimmer passing his torch to the next generation, brings out the heart of what makes Rescue Swimmers so fascinating: the indomitable human drive to help others.

The film's genesis began when screenwriter Ron L. Brinkerhoff was inspired to write a movie that would explore the nature of heroism but was in search of a fresh approach. "Cops and firemen have been done over and over, but the world of the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer program had never been explored on screen,” he explains. "What I found most compelling is that the Coast Guard is the only branch of the military whose mandate is entirely to save lives…not take them.”

After beginning his research, Brinkerhoff decided to focus his screenplay on two men—one a revered veteran of fabled deep-water rescues nearing retirement, the other a bold, brash, self-assured young man just starting his training—and explore how bravery and wisdom are gained through their intense experiences. "In approaching the story, I wanted to kind of deconstruct the quintessential action hero,” says Brinkerhoff. "I wanted to highlight the physical, psychological and emotional toll this kind of profession takes and underline the remarkable sacrifices ultimately required of them as human beings.”

Early on, Brinkerhoff brought the idea to producers Tripp Vinson and Beau Flynn at Contrafilm, who coincidentally had themselves also been considering the world of Rescue Swimmers as the setting for a future film. "We were excited about the idea of combining dramatic human moments with a big action canvas,” says Vinson. "We also wanted to<

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