Marines Get Their Feet Wet During Swim Qualification

Marines Get Their Feet Wet During Swim Qualification

Two Marines step off an eight foot platform into the water during a swim qualification aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, March 5, 2015. Marines have to get re-certified in water survival every two years on active duty, or every three years if they pass the intermediate swim qualification. Photo by Cpl Scott Whiting.

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(March 6, 2015)  - The Marines look left, look right, up and down, and then take a step forward. After an eight-foot drop, they are submerged in water. They resurface and swim 25 meters.

This station is part of the Marine Corps' basic swim qualification, which tests the Marines' abilities to drop into the water, remain calm and keep swimming.

Marines have to get re-certified in water survival every two years on active duty, or every three years if they pass the intermediate swim qualification.

Even though it's a Marine Corps requirement, Sgt Cole Long, the lead Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival for the training, thinks learning how to effectively function in the water goes far beyond just a check in the box.

"This past summer my brother was drowning, and I had to jump in to save him," said Long, a native of Jonesboro, Ark. "After that, I decided I wanted to be able to teach other Marines how to survive in the water, because you never know when you could be faced with a life or death situation."

Cpl Andy Orozco, the assistant MCIWS instructor for the swim qualification, echoed the importance of the training.

"It all boils down to survival skills," said Orozco, an El Paso native. "Jumping off of a high platform into the water is supposed to simulate jumping overboard and swimming to safety. If you are ever faced with that in real life, you need to know how to enter the water properly from that height, how to inflate your blouse to float with and how to remain calm. All these things are taught here."

The basic swim qualification involves a 25 meter swim, stepping off an eight to 10 foot platform and performing another 25 meter swim, shedding a full combat load in shallow water, swimming with a pack, and treading water for four minutes.

"They pretty much all did a great job during the evaluation," Long said. "There were a couple individuals who couldn't grasp some of the concepts, and some who were nervous about the jump, but we got basically everyone through the qualification pretty quickly. This was a good group of [Marines] to instruct."

They also held an intermediate class for the Marines who wanted to try their hand at a more difficult swim qualification. The test is similar; however after jumping into the water from the platform, they swim 250 meters vice 25. Once that is complete, they must swim 50 meters with a pack and full fighting load attached to the pack. Then they drop a whole fighting load underwater in the deep end of the pool, and lastly tread water for 10 minutes.

"The intermediate version is definitely harder," said SSgt Jason Cortes, who went through the more advanced version. "It's doable if you aren't a very strong swimmer, but you need to have the heart for it and mental strength to get through it."

At the end of the day, approximately 50 Marines were re-certified on their swim qualifications.

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