News: Ability to relax allows recruits success in water survival basic
Story by Lance Cpl. Bridget Keane
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The fourth week of every training cycle aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego is dedicated to swim qualification. Water survival basic is a graduation requirement that teaches recruits how to survive in an aquatic environment using different strokes and techniques while wearing a full utility uniform and pair of combat boots.
The course of qualification is to swim 25 meters in both the shallow and deep of the Olympic sized pool, tread water for four minutes, use a waterproof-pack to swim 25 meters and perform a 10-second gear strip while submerged.
“The main thing about swim qual is being able to relax,” explained Staff Sgt. Julian L. Russell, chief swim instructor, Instructional Training Company, Support Battalion. “Relaxation and having confidence in yourself will allow you to learn the techniques.”
Some recruits may see swim week as just another training event, not knowing much about the challenges involved. Even the most confident swimmers have a difficult time relaxing and maneuvering through the water in their uniform.
“I thought I was going to have no problem passing,” said Recruit Joseph Boyd, Platoon 3222, Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. “It felt like the water was fighting back; I just stepped in, started to swim, looked up and everyone was leaving me behind.”
Boyd, an 18-year-old Harbor City, Calif. native, explained how he usually is a strong swimmer but movement through the water became hard while wearing his camis.
“Even though it’s a bit difficult, I think we’re really taught this not only because we’ll have to survive ourselves but to save another Marine’s life,” said Boyd. “You can’t just leave someone behind because you’re in your uniform and it makes it harder to swim.”
Although Boyd didn’t qualify day one of swim week, he didn’t let it discourage him. Recruits that don’t qualify the first day are given remediation classes and a second chance to qualify. Swim instructors work one-on-one with the recruits to ensure they learn the techniques correctly.
“I soon learned it was all about technique and staying calm; the instructors pointed out that I wasn’t relaxed and that I was tense,” explained Boyd.
According to Russell, most recruits who lacked confidence and had a hard time qualifying the first day are more likely to pass the second time around because instructors stress how easy it is when the recruit becomes relaxed.
Boyd explained that he allowed himself to calm down and just go through the motions. He soon found out how easy each technique was once he became relaxed.
“I hate failing and I hate to lose, so I refused to let myself fail at this,” said Boyd. “I am definitely more confident in myself now with the techniques than I was before.”
Boyd and his fellow recruits of Co. K stand drenched and relieved that they endured the day’s events and that they have officially passed water survival basic. Co. K is currently at Edson Range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. where they are learning the fundamentals of basic marksmanship.