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Albany Leathernecks plunge into water survival training at ASU

By Sgt. Joshua Bozeman | | February 19, 2003

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Marines were recently given the opportunity to progress in their knowledge and skills of water survival techniques during the first week of swim training here.

Staff Sgt. David McKinley, Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival here, spent the week at the Albany State University swimming pool training and qualifying more than 40 Marines. The week began a window of opportunity for Marines to train.

McKinley took the Marines through the various levels of swim qualification, while ensuring that everyone in the pool was safe.

According to McKinley, swimming is a learned skill. Some Marines find it more difficult than others, but with time and practice, Marines can improve.

"We are amphibious warriors," he said. "The goal of the training is to build confidence and survival skills in an aquatic environment."

McKinley said the pool was a great opportunity for Marines to familiarize themselves with the water in a controlled environment -- a closed off, heated area with no currents or wildlife to disrupt concentration.

One-on-one training is available for any Marines who don't feel comfortable in the water. And according to several of the Marines who attended the training, McKinley's instruction proved invaluable.

"Phenomenal," said Gunnery Sgt. Richard Walker, school liaison officer here, of McKinley's aid. Walker made it to Water Survival, Second Class. "He is an awesome instructor who is skilled at what he does."

Cpl. George Ruble, network administrator here, agreed.

"He is very patient and works very well with people," said Ruble.

Though McKinley has only been an MCIWS for a little more than a year, he is no stranger to the water or aiding others in survival. He has been a certified lifeguard since 1994 and a licensed rescue diver since 1995.

McKinley stressed the importance of maintaining current qualifications.

"If the commandant can do it, then everyone needs to follow suit," said McKinley.

There are five levels of swim qualification in the Marine Corps, in addition to the instructors level. They increase in difficulty from WS4 to Water Survival Qualified.

According to McKinley, the average Marine is a CWS3, but the goal of every Marine should be to become a WSQ.

The amount of time a Marine is allowed to let lapse before being qualified depends on the level of qualification they currently hold. For instance, a Marine qualified as a WS3 must qualify every two years, while WSQ Marine need only qualify every six years.

WS4 is the minimum for enlisted Marines and WS2 is the minimum requirement for officers.

According to Walker, the week of training was a great opportunity for active duty personnel to get out from behind their desks and be Marines.

"As Marines, we are either fighting, floating or flying," said Walker.

Walker stressed the importance of keeping swim qualifications current despite the possibility that Marines may find themselves in desert warfare.

"It's important never to forget you are a Marine, no matter where you are," he said.

Walker cited the story of a Marine who fell off his ship in '93 and had to survive in the water for 36 hours before he was found.

"If that Marine hadn't acquired the survival skills from the Marine Corps, he probably wouldn't have survived the ordeal," he said.

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