CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - A cool January breeze chilled Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marines Logistics Group, as they stood 25 feet above the pool, toes on the edge of the tower and breaths shallow, mentally preparing to plunge into the water during their annual swim qualification aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 13, 2014.
A basic swim qualification is the minimum requirement for all Marines. However, each Marine has the opportunity to progress to Water Survival Advanced - the third level of qualification. There are eight total levels Marines can qualify through, all of which require Marines to wear camouflage utilities.
To achieve the basic qualification, Marines must swim 25 meters, shed their gear in the shallow end of the pool, swim 25 meters while maintaining possession of a pack, jump off a 25-foot tower, and tread water for five minutes. Each level of training provides more challenging tasks such as jumping off of a higher platform, swimming longer distances, and treading water for longer periods of time.
Marines are an amphibious force which means they need to be able to swim.
“I’ve deployed off a ship before, and I’m not the only one,” said Master Sgt. Mauricio A. Osorio, engineer equipment chief, 7th ESB, CLR-1, 1st MLG. “Swimming is a required skill for all Marines. It could easily make the difference between Marines living or dying.”
Marine Combat Instructors of Water Survival undergo a rigorous training course for three weeks to become exceptional swimmers, capable of instilling confidence in Marines who are not comfortable in the water. Not all Marines who undergo swim qualifications show up comfortable in the water. It is the MCIWS instructor’s responsibility to ensure each Marine gains the confidence necessary to complete the training.
“With so many Marines leaving the Middle East, the Corps seems to be transitioning to a phase where most deployments are with Marine Expeditionary Units,” said Cpl. Matthew Connolly, lead MCIWS with 11th Marines. “A MEU operates from ships in the ocean, where water survival skills are paramount.”
It is vital that each Marine, completes the training and walks away with the necessary skills to survive in an aquatic environment.
“You never know when you might have to do something such as abandon ship,” said Osorio, Santa Barbara, Calif. native. “Jumping off the tower simulates that, and we, as Marines, can never be too prepared when lives are on the line.”
With the help of this training, Marines will be better prepared for the challenges that can be faced in the water as an amphibious fighting force.