News: Surf qualification brings Marines back to amphibious roots
Story by Lance Cpl. Jose Lujano
CAMP SCHWAB, Japan - Assault amphibious vehicles head 500 meters out from the shores of an Okinawa beach. The AAVs come to a sudden halt, and about 10 Marines and sailors from each AAV leap into the waters in succession.
This sequence was conducted several more times as more than 400 Marines and sailors completed their surf qualification off the coast of Oura Wan Beach at Camp Schwab Oct. 30.
Marines with Headquarters and Service Company, Combat Engineer Company and Assault Amphibious Vehicle Company, all part of Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, participated in the qualification. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which is currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, also participated in the surf qualification.
The 500-meter qualification swim is required to ensure the Marines are competent swimmers in the event they have to abandon their AAV and get back to land.
“This training evolution enables the Marines to get back to their core competency of being amphibious,” said Master Sgt. Sammy S. Supnet, the logistics chief with AAV Company. “The Marines had the opportunity to overcome any fear of disembarking an AAV into open waters while trusting their life preserver to aid in a 500-meter swim.”
During the qualification, the currents dragged the service members further down the beach and away from their intended destination, making their swim more difficult, according to Capt. Todd P. Forsman, the company commander for AAV Company.
“The waves’ current moved north to south,” said Forsman. “Even if the Marines swam straight, they had to recalibrate their path because the current would shift them off course, making them work harder.”
Each service member had a partner during the swim in case of any problems making it back to shore. The service members wore a white shirt if they were basic or intermediate swim qualified, according to Supnet.
“The partners were evenly paired – every weak swimmer was matched up with a strong swimmer,” said Supnet.
For some service members, the surf qualification was an entirely new experience.
“This was my first surf qualification,” said Lance Cpl. Sean B. Drea, a field radio operator with CAB. “Even though I have a fear of water, becoming familiar with water through training like this enhances my amphibious abilities as a Marine.”
Some of the service members found the qualification challenging due to the long distance of the swim.
“When looking at the drop-off point from land, it looks much shorter than when you jump out of the AAV and swim back to the shore,” said Drea. “The event is a mind teaser, but most of all it tests each individual’s amount of dedication to keep pushing forward to complete the mission.”
As the Marines and sailors completed the qualification, it was apparent they were confident in their survival skills, according to Forsman.
“Everyone demonstrated the ability to negotiate 500 meters of open ocean and get back to shore in case of an emergency on an AAV,” said Forsman. “The event allowed us to get back to our amphibious roots.”