CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Swimming has been part of the Marine Corps since its birth in 1775. Marines stormed their first beach during the Revolutionary War. They turned the tide in Korea when they landed at Inchon in 1950, and their skill in water remains key today.
The Marines stood on top of the dive tower, looking down into the deep blue pool, hearts beating through their chests as the countdown began.
The Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group jumped into their annual swim qualification here, from Jan. 7 to 9.
“Everything we do revolves around water,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob H. Schiros, a Dothan, Ala., native and one of the regiment’s swim qualification coordinators. “Whether it’s being on base, ship, or taking the beach somewhere, Marines must know how to swim.”
The Marines embraced their 237-year legacy and dove into the Corps’ recently updated swim qualification program.
The new training is an awakening for Marines who haven’t qualified since recruit training. It replaced the six previous levels of qualification with three new categories: basic, intermediate and advanced, with the option of becoming an instructor.
To receive their basic qualification, the Marines first completed a 25-meter assessment swim to see if they are comfortable in the water. They also practiced removing their gear in the shallow end.
Servicemembers completed another 25-meter swim with their boots, blouses, trousers, helmets, flak jackets and rifles, and they jumped off the high tower simulating abandoning a ship.
Anything more than five meters is enough to test someone with a fear of heights, said Sgt. Matthew A. Webb, a Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival who conducted the training for the regiment.
Stronger swimmers progressed to the intermediate level and conducted gear removal in deeper water. They had 20 seconds to complete the task before performing a 250-meter swim and treading water for 10 minutes.
Troops that overcame these obstacles can then go to a special school to receive an advanced qualification.
“The Marines who have done this before really show their confidence,” said Webb, who monitored the Marines’ performance. “If these Marines are not confident in the water, my job is to pull them aside, train them, assess what they are doing, and help them improve.”
Webb coached the Marines as they shed gear underwater and practiced creating flotation devices from personal clothing.
“This prepares them if they are in a combat situation,” said Webb, a Modesto, Calif., native. “If they are on a ship or out on the water and have to abandon ship with equipment on, they need to be confident that they can get out of their gear and onto the surface.”
The new requirements are getting the Marine Corps back to its amphibious roots. The regiment plans to conduct swim qualifications every month to keep all Marines up to date, said Schiros.