MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Sept. 13, 2011) --
In the past, Marine Corps swim qualifications have been sorted into class four, three, two or one; four being the minimum requirement for enlisted Marines. Now a Marine is considered a beginning, intermediate, or advanced-level swimmer.
The changes were implemented April 15 for the Marine Corps Water Survival Training Program standards and requirements. The changes adjusted the qualification process to provide the Marine Corps an updated, safer and expeditionary force-relevant water survival program. The new system concurrently reduces annual training requirements on the operating forces, according to Marine Corps Order 1500.52D.
“Before I left for my deployment, I had the highest swim qualification I could get,” said Lance Cpl. Philip DiPaolo V, a water survival advanced swimmer who assisted the Marine Corps Instructors of Water Survival.
“When I came back, everything had changed, and I had to do it again. “I definitely like the new course more though, it’s more rounded.”
The new water survival program reduces the qualification levels from six to three.
“The new qualification pretty much sums it all up,” said Cpl. Sean Litchfield the chief Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival at the Cherry Point combat pool.
“I think this course now has more common sense. Jumping off of the tower they just wear their cammies, digital camouflaged utility uniform, and boots. It’s more oriented to what Marines are going to be doing in the water.”
Swim qualification four and three are now considered water survival basic. At the basic qualification level the Marines are required to shed their gear, while in the water, in less than 10 seconds. Next, the Marines abandon ship by jumping off of a raised platform called “the tower” into the water. After the abandon ship, the Marines must tread water for four minutes, where they stay afloat using only their gear and without using the edge of the pool. Lastly, the Marines must conduct a 25-meter pack swim, where they transport their packs from one side of the pool to the other. This qualification keeps Marines certified for two years.
“The big thing that has changed in the course has been the addition of boots and other gear to everything,” said Litchfield. “In the old swim qualification, levels one and four were without boots. No Marine is going to take his boots off before swimming across a river or jumping off of a ship.”
Swim qualification two is now water survival intermediate. Like at bootcamp the Marines first conduct a gear shed but now in deeper water, in less than 20 seconds. Next, they do another abandon ship and swim 250 meters after hitting the water. Instead of four minutes, the Marines tread water for 10 minutes. Lastly, the Marines do another 25-meter pack swim with a flak-jacket and Kevlar. This qualification keeps Marines certified for three years.
The advanced water survival course is a week of rigorous swims, runs, exercises, rescues and techniques. The Marines are taught rescues and escapes from both combat related and every day situations. For example, if someone was drowning at the beach or public pool.
Qualified advanced water survival students can assist the instructors during the swim qualification evolutions. This qualification also certifies Marines for three years.
“The course now builds the confidence of the Marines in the water,” said Litchfield. “To the instructors, watching the Marines improve feels good.”
In order for Marines to be properly qualified all Marine Corps Water Survival Instructors and Instructor Trainers must also go through the training to learn the difference between the old and new qualifications.
“When you jump into the water with all that gear on you never really know how heavy it really is,” said DiPaolo. “It’s rewarding teaching and helping Marines get through what they thought they couldn’t.”