News: Latest SP-MAGTF Africa unit begins work-ups in the pool
Story by Sgt. Monique Wallace
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Approximately 55 reservists assigned to Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13.3 spent the day going through their pre-deployment swim qualification, March 26, 2013, at the Courthouse Bay training tank.
The swim qualification was part of the unit’s pre-deployment training schedule. The Marines and Sailors assigned to Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13.3 are scheduled to deploy later this year to conduct security force assistance, military-to-military engagements and support to crisis response in the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility. Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13.3 will strengthen U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command’s ability to assist partner nations in addressing their security concerns.
The swim qualification, revamped in 2011, replaced the previous qualification course into three simple levels of basic, intermediate and advanced. The new change brought on an exciting experience for the reservists within the task force.
“The last time I did a swim qual was in boot camp, so this is the first time doing the new one,” explained Cpl. Markus Wilkes, a rifleman joining the task force from Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, based out of Harrisburg, Pa.
During the basic qualification, swimmers were required to swim 25-meters using one of four approved strokes, simulate an “abandoned ship” drill which involved jumping off of a raised platform, and treading water for four minutes. The Marines and Sailors then had to perform a shallow-water gear shed, with a load consisting of rifle, flak jacket and Kevlar within a time constraint of 10 seconds. Once successfully completed, swimmers had to conduct an additional 25-meter swim while wearing an assault pack.
To obtain an intermediate qualification, the Marines and Sailors were required to shed their gear in deep water, simulate an “abandoned ship” maneuver, and immediately conduct a 250-meter swim. The last portion of the intermediate test required swimmers to tread water for 10-minutes in full gear.
Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13.3 was up for the challenge.
“Some of these Marines would normally just get in the water, do the basic test and be done with it,” said Staff Sgt. John Aguayo, a Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival with 4th Force Reconnaissance Company. “I didn’t give them the option.”
While the process of swim qualification can be daunting, Marines have always been an amphibious force and must be able to function in the water.
“As Marines, when we are faced with adversity, we have to learn to overcome it, which is why I wanted [them] to keep going,” explained Aguayo. “[They] need to be in the water. Granted, I’m a little biased being a recon Marine, because we live in the water. But as Marines, we are amphibious and this helps us be well-rounded.”