By Sgt. Monique Wallace
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - Approximately 55 reservists assigned to Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 13.3 Africa spent the day going through the swim qualification, March 26, 2013, at the Courthouse Bay training tank.
The swim qualification is part of the unit’s pre-deployment training schedule. The Marines and Sailors assigned to SPMAGTF 13.3 Africa will be tasked with conducting theater security cooperation and possible crisis response missions in support of U.S. Africa Command when they deploy later this year.
The training, revamped in 2011, replaced the previous qualification course into three simple levels of basic, intermediate and advanced. The new change brought on an exciting experience for the reservists within the task force.
“The last time I did a swim qual was in boot camp, so this is the first time doing the new one,” explained Cpl. Markus Wilkes, a rifleman coming from Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines out of Harrisburg, Pa.
During the basic qualification, swimmers were required to swim 25 meters using one of the four strokes demonstrated, simulate an “abandoned ship” drill which involved jumping off of a raised platform, and ending with treading water for four minutes.
The Marines and Sailors had to perform a shallow-water gear shed, with a load consisting of rifle, flak jacket and Kevlar, in a time constraint of 10 seconds. Once successfully completed, swimmers had to conduct an additional 25-meter swim while wearing an assault pack.
To obtain an intermediate qualification, the Marines and Sailors were required to shed their gear in deep water, simulate an “abandoned ship” maneuver, and immediately conducted a 250-meter swim.
The last portion of the intermediate test required swimmers to tread water for now a 10-minute period in full gear. SPMAGTF was up for the challenge.
“Some of these Marines would normally just get in the water, do the basic test and be done with it,” said Staff Sgt. John Aguayo, a Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival with 4th Force Reconnaissance Company. “I didn’t give them the option.”
After more than 10 years of land-based fighting, the Marine Corps is shifting its focus towards returning to its amphibious roots. While the process can be daunting, knowing how to function in the water is a skill that every Marine needs to know.
“As Marines, when we are faced with adversity, we have to learn to overcome it, which is why I wanted (them) to keep going,” explained Aguayo. “(They) need to be in the water. Granted, I’m a little bias being a recon Marine, because we live in the water. But as Marines, we are amphibious and this helps us be well-rounded.”