MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- There a still Marines who need to retest their skills in Combat Water Survival, despite the fact that the base pool will close for the season on Labor Day.
According to Marine Corps Order 1500.52B, all enlisted Marines must maintain a minimum qualification level of CWS4 and officers are required to maintain a minimum level of CWS2. The order also states that all Marines, regardless of age, rank, or time in service, must obtain and maintain a valid swim qualification throughout their careers.
The five Marine Corps combat water survival qualification levels are CWS4, CWS3, CWS2, CWS1 and WSQ. Each level has a series of tasks Marines must complete which become progressively more difficult. During the first qualification level, CWS4, Marines are taught personal survival. But as the levels progress, a Marine is taught how to survive in the water during adverse conditions and how to rescue unconscious and conscious victims.
"When Marines complete this training they will know how to survive a combat situation in the water," Sgt. Thomas F. Miller Jr., Marine combat instructor of Water Survival here, said, "which is important because in the Marine Corps you never know what kind of conditions you may find yourself in."
Although a Marine will not be penalized for not maintaining his minimum CWS requirements, his qualification level will be recorded into his Basic Training Record, which might help at promotion time. A high swim qualification level will help a Marine stand out amongst his peers.
"Being swim-qualified is part of being a Marine. So whether you are afraid of the water or you just don't think it's worth the effort, it is still part of your duty to fulfill this requirement," Miller said.
Aside from just "putting a check in the box," the training and skills Marines learn in the water during qualification is not only useful in combat but also in everyday situations, Miller said.
"You could be passing by people swimming in a lake, and someone could drown or need help," said Miller. "As a Marine it is your job to help rescue them."
Staff Sgt. David M. McKinley, Marine combat instructor of water survival, and Miller encourage Marines to schedule section physical training or to swim laps at the base pool. Exercising in the water not only enhances Marines' strength but also conditions their cardiovascular systems.
"You don't need to know how to swim to get in the pool and work out," McKinley Said. "We [instructors] can create activities that challenge everyone, using the water as a resistance for a full body workout."
Miller's job and the jobs of other water survival instructors here are to train and help Marines qualify in combat water survival techniques. Some people are weak swimmers and may fear the water, but he is willing and available to train Marines individually who feel they need help as long as they put forth effort. Helping Marines realize they are in control even when they are in the water is the instructors' goal.
"If a Marine has trouble swimming they can contact me and we can work out a training schedule," said Miller. "I'm more than willing to help out."
One instructor to every five Marines is always in the water while Marines are training to ensure their safety, said McKinley. The instructors have gone through extensive, rigorous training that qualifies them to instruct Marines on water survival.
Marine combat instructors of Water Survival have also undergone classes developed by the American Red Cross in life guarding and cardio pulmonary resuscitation for professional rescuers.
"Instructors are highly trained beyond civilian lifeguard standards and must re-certify every three years or we lose our certification," McKinley said. "This keeps all instructors up to date with not only their swimming skills, but their lifesaving skills and qualifying standards as well."
"Marines are competitive by nature and should always strive to go to the next level," McKinley said. "The minimum requirement is a starting point, not a goal."
The base pool is not open every week for Marines to qualify, but Marines can call the S-3 Battalion Training Section at 639-5130 to find out when swim qualification will be held. When a qualification week is held, Marines can be tested Tuesday-Friday, 7-11 a.m. The pool is also open Tuesdays through Fridays 11 a.m.-1p.m. for active duty Marines to swim laps from.
Marines who would like to reserve the pool for section physical training can do so Mondays through Fridays by calling Miller or McKinley two days prior to the desired day for training.