MCCS aquatics offers swimming lessons, lifeguard certification

Marine Corps Base Hawaii
Story by Kristen Wong

Date: 02.07.2014
Posted: 02.07.2014 12:29
News ID: 120276
MCCS aquatics offers swimming lessons, lifeguard certification

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - Marine Corps Community Services aquatics is currently accepting registration for spring swimming lessons, which begin March 1, and the next American Red Cross Lifeguarding certification class, which runs from March 17 through 21, 2014.

Active duty as well as dependents and Department of Defense civilians ages 15 years and older are eligible for the lifeguarding class. In order to be a beach lifeguard, students must additionally be certified by the United States Lifeguard Association, which MCCS also offers.

Heather Chunn, the MCCS aquatics and water safety manager, who worked as a lifeguard for 12 years, taught lifeguarding for nine and swimming for 12, is the instructor for the class.

Individuals can take the class, or units can call to schedule a class for a lifeguarding review in order to keep their Marine Corps instructor of water survival certification. The American Red Cross requires a re-certification every two years.

Students need only a swimsuit, towel and a “good attitude,” according to Chunn. Lifeguarding classes are five days long, running 7 to 8 hours a day, depending on the class size.

On the first day of class, Chunn said all students must demonstrate that they can swim a consecutive 300 yards using a combination of breaststroke and freestyle. They must also be able to swim 25 yards, retrieve a water brick from 9 to 12 feet deep, and return carrying the water brick with both hands, using the elementary backstroke or egg-beater kick.

Students learn different scenarios such as an “active-drowner scenario,” in which the victim is panicking and in very serious danger of drowning. They will also learn skills such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation for the professional rescuer, how to use an automated external defibrillator and first aid for conditions including punctures, fractures and abrasions. At the end of the course, students must successfully pass three final skill scenarios without coaching and take a written multiple-choice exam.

“So far I’m really enjoying it,” said participant John Pruitt. “It’s a good refresher for me.”

Pruitt, who is a MCIWS, took the lifeguarding class to re-certify in CPR and first aid. The 37-year-old native of Harlem, Ga., became a MCIWS for the physical challenge. Pruitt said the most challenging aspect of lifeguarding is “the responsibility of having someone else’s life in your hands.” As a MCIWS, he has experience saving service members during training.

“(There are) men and women in the Marine Corps (who) can barely swim or can’t swim and panic really easily,” Pruitt said. “I’ve seen Marines (nearly) drown each other because one panics, so he grabs the closest person to him (and) next thing you know, you have a situation. When I teach MCIWS, my biggest fear (is) someone drowning, so I’m always very serious about that.”

Participant Cody Wade, like Pruitt, has experience with lifeguarding. Wade, a military dependent, is taking the class in order to renew his lifeguarding certification. Wade was a pool lifeguard for MCCS in North Carolina. For Wade, the biggest challenge to being a lifeguard is
“(ensuring) safety of others always being alert and ready.”

“I’ve always had a love for the water,” said Wade, of Havelock, N.C. “It’s always been a passion of mine (to lifeguard) ever since I was a kid. I like this class, very impressed with how they’re teaching the procedures.”

Although people train to be lifeguards, swimmers can still practice water safety to avoid potential drowning. Chunn said even experienced swimmers may need assistance from a lifeguard, if for example, they are experiencing cardiac arrest or seizures while in the water. She urges parents to keep their non-swimming children at arms length at all times, whether or not they are wearing flotation devices. Chunn also recommends less-confident swimmers alert the lifeguard on duty when they plan to use the pool, and avoid the deep end.

“Lifeguarding is a profession that should be taken seriously, as we are responding to emergencies,” Chunn said. “A person who is drowning is having an emergency situation, and needs immediate response.”

In addition to lifeguarding class, MCCS aquatics also offers swimming lessons. Starting this Saturday and Sunday, registration for swimming lessons is ongoing throughout the year, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. at the base pool.

“We now offer three times the amount of lessons that have been offered in the past,” Chunn said. “We will do anything in our power to create a space for any student who is interested in taking a swimming lesson.”

Swimming lessons are open to active duty, dependents and DoD civilians. All lessons are taught between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Individual adults and children can sign up for as many private lessons as they wish, at $16.50 per lesson. Semi-private lessons, which include more than two adults or children, cost $11.25.

Group lessons, which are only for children 2.5 to 17 years old, are twice a week for a month. Lessons can be taken either Tuesdays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Fridays, for $65. Students will learn every recognized stroke, competitive strokes, side and elementary backstrokes, diving from the wall, starts and turns.

There are also parent and child swimming sessions, Wednesday and Friday, for children from ages 6 months to 2.5 years old. Parents participate in song and play to encourage their children to be comfortable in the water. Chunn said parents are encouraged to bring swim diapers for young children.

The MCCS aquatics staff also plans to offer a pre-competitive swim team for the first time. Children ages 4 and older are eligible for the team, which meets Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 to 6 p.m. Joining the non-competitive team teaches the children skills they need to compete on a formal swim team.

For those want to brush up on their swimming skills, or test the waters for the first time, all levels are welcome.

“We will cater to their pace,” Chunn said. “(Even if the student starts the first class) sitting on the ledge, putting (their) legs in the water. We’re here to encourage you. We’re surrounded by water on this island, and the base pool is an easy, convenient location (for) affordable swim lessons taught by certified instructors who will help you become a more confident swimmer. Swimming at the pool should be an enjoyable experience, and we can get you where you want to be.”

For more information, visit or by calling the base pool or calling Heather Chunn, 254-7655.