News: Arctic soldiers conquer the water during survival course
Story by Sgt. Thomas Duval
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division put away their snow shoes and cold weather gear and hit the water for a Combat Water Survival Training course at Melavin Gym here Aug. 23.
“Being a Pacific-aligned force we have a lot of water to cover and right now we don’t know where we may be asked to go next … so we have to be ready for anything,” Capt. Joshua Withington, commander of HHC, 1-25th SBCT said.
“The purpose of CWST is to get back to the basics while building confidence and esprit de corps,” 1st Sgt. Robert Whiteley, senior noncommissioned officer for HHC, 1-25 SBCT said. “The training allows Soldiers to focus on the basic things people don’t get to do every day and gives them something to talk about.”
CWST tests a soldier’s ability to swim carrying the standard Army combat load, to jump from a high dive into a pool wearing gear and to remove gear while under water.
“A lot of these guys have never jumped in the water with all their clothes on, equipment on, boots on and carrying their weapons and this gives the confidence to know that they can do it,” Withington said.
“It was fun but it was tiring,” Sgt. 1st Class Armando Torres, an internment/resettlement specialist with HHC, 1-25th SBCT said.
Whiteley said the training carried a special importance who, during multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, witnessed firsthand how dangerous the water can be without the proper training.
He said he saw several soldiers in Afghanistan get swept away by fast moving rivers and streams while on patrol. The Soldiers survived those incidents because of water training similar to CWST, he added.
Whiteley and Withington agreed that soldiers losing their lives due to preventable water related incidents is unacceptable.
With a recent surge of young soldiers reporting to the unit, they said, the training will benefit the overall mission effectiveness of the entire unit.
“We have about 40 new soldiers out here today that have never done this before, so this allows them to get familiar with the process,” Withington said.
The training allowed the company leadership to assess individual skills and to identify which soldiers need more training.
“The guys who said they couldn’t swim came out here and jumped in the water and at least tried to accomplish the mission and to me that says a lot,” Withington said. “No one is giving up and that’s impressive.”
Soldiers who had little experience at swimming weren’t the only ones feeling the effects of the training.
“Even though I know how to swim the weight made it more difficult,” Torres said. “Being able to finish the training gave me a lot of confidence.”