News: Birds gotta fly, Marines gotta swim
Story by Cpl. Kenneth Trotter
IWAKUNI, Japan - “Mare” is Latin for sea. So it would stand to reason Marines consider themselves the modern-day forerunners of amphibious assaults.
Servicemembers from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, took part in a two-day swim qualification course at the IronWorks Gym swimming pool here Jan. 31, 2013.
Swim qualification ensures servicemembers are able to continue their mission in the event of an unexpected incident and also improve their comfort in the water.
The Marine water survival basic qualification is required for Marines and servicemembers assigned to Marine detachments or units.
Qualifications changed somewhat in the last two years from what many Marines have experienced.
“Yesterday, we conducted water safety basic, which is the basic qualification for standardized comfort ability and survivability on the water,” said Staff Sgt. Brian A. Smith, Marine Aircraft Group 12 Marine Water Survival Training Program chief.
There are a total of three levels of the course, with the highest being advanced.
The basic course involved employing flotation gear, swimming 45 meters with a pack, treading water for four minutes and shedding gear within 10 seconds. The intermediate level consisted of employing flotation gear, swimming with full gear and a pack for 50 meters, a self rescue after jumping off a diving tower and swimming 250 meters. Once that is complete, servicemembers must employ flotation techniques for 10 minutes and shed their gear in the deep end of the pool.
The advanced course is a week long and may require the use of the outdoor swimming pool throughout that time. The advance course is slated for May.
“As of right now, we only have one indoor pool,” said Smith. “We literally have to shut down the pool all day. The reason why we’re trying for the summertime is the amount of outside pools we have.”
The goal is to eventually have the course at least once a month from May to September, depending on when the outdoor pools close.
Currently, there is a limit to how many students may participate in the advance class.
Smith said he will only be able to allow 10 students per class, which will consist of five students per instructor as the MCIWS instructors rotate out to new duty stations.
A total of 76 servicemembers participated in the basic course. The day after, 25 took part in the intermediate course.
The need to have a basic understanding of water survival is essential as Marines may receive assignment to Marine Expeditionary Units and U.S. Naval fleets across the world. Though the basic qualification is mandatory, Marines should strive for the highest level possible. Ultimately, it could be a technique learned during these classes that saves their lives in the water.