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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany


Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Marine training keeps amphibious traditions alive

By Pfc. Nicholas Tremblay | | June 28, 2001

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A Marine is sleeping soundly aboard an aircraft carrier when he is suddenly thrown from his rack. He scrambles to the deck of the rocking ship and finds fire and chaos everywhere.

The carrier has been ripped open by torpedoes from an enemy submarine. It is sinking fast and his fellow Marines and he must jump ship.

When he hits the freezing water his heart starts racing as he chokes on a mouthful of the salty liquid. He starts to calm down until he realizes that his buddy next to him is unconscious and face down in the water. A rowboat 50 feet away is the only place he can go to perform CPR. What does he do?

Now that the base pool is open, it is a great time for Marines to brush up on combat water survival skills. Not only can Marines practice on their own, but Marine Combat Instructors of Water Survival are also at the pool to teach Marines what to do in combat situations while re-qualifying them.

The Marine Corps has five swim qualification classifications. The minimum required swim class for enlisted Marines is Combat Water Survival 4, which emphasizes personal survival without combat gear. Marines are taught the beginner's swimming stroke, how to tread water, and to stay afloat. Marines in this classification must re-qualify every year.  

The next level of qualification is CWS3, which focuses on personal survival in full combat gear in combat scenarios. Marines must re-qualify every two years once they pass CWS3 training.

For training purposes, full combat gear consists of boots, utilities, helmet, flak jacket, load bearing vest, cartridge belt, two magazine pouches, two full canteens with covers, rubber rifle, and a standard 30-pound pack, which Marines must properly waterproof.

Once a Marine has completed CWS3 the next level of qualification is CWS2. The first thing a Marine must finish is a 50-meter swim, while wearing full combat gear without his pack. Marines are also taught how to swim while supporting a wounded Marine when wearing the gear. This is the minimum required skill level for all officers. Marines must re-qualify every three years for this level.

The CWS1 level teaches Marines how to rescue and tow a distressed swimmer to safety. Marines are also taught how to escape if attacked by another swimmer and how to survive under adverse conditions.

The ultimate water survival goal of all Marines is to be Water Survival Qualified, according to the Marine Corps Order, 1500.52B. The highest level is Water Survival Qualified. Once it is obtained, Marines must re-qualify every six years.

Although swim qualification requirements are basically the same a new Marine Corps Order changed a couple of things. The previous order stipulated who had to take the water survival test and how often. The newly released Marine Corps Order 1500.52B, on Marine Corps Water Survival Training, states that all personnel, regardless of age, rank or time in service, must obtain and maintain a valid swim qualification throughout their careers.

To help Marines who need to re-qualify, Marine Combat Instructors of Water Survival and safety swimmers are at the Base Pool Monday through Friday, 6:30-11:30 a.m. If Marines cannot make it to the pool during these hours, instructors will help Marines on the weekends if they are willing to learn.

It is important that Marines take this seriously and re-qualify when their swim qualification expires, said Lance Cpl. Daniel S. Lane, MCIWS here. Not only will the training help a Marine during a time of war when he has to make his way to the enemy beach front during an amphibious landing, but the knowledge that is taught during swim qualification could help save Marines' lives.

"This kind of training that the Marine Corps has required you to attain is not only going to better yourself, but it's going to save lives," said Lane.

"This training's primary goal is to save your life and your fellow Marines' [lives] by teaching you the proper techniques to stay afloat and alive in the water," said Lane.

Safety is the instructor's biggest concern while training Marines at the pool, said Lane. Treading water in full combat gear can get tiring very quickly. That is why safety swimmers are constantly in the water ensuring Marines are safe while the instructor supervises everything that is happening in the pool area. Navy corpsmen or emergency medical technicians from the Base Fire Department are also present in case of a medical emergency.

"We [instructors] are here to train Marines in combat water survival," said Lane. "That is our job."

"I teach Marines the way the Marine Corps wants me to, but I try to make it fun so they will want to practice water survival," said Lane.

The base's water survival instructors will be at the pool all summer on
weekday mornings to qualify Marines in combat water survival, said Lane.

Lane can be reached at 639- 5195 during working hours Monday through Friday, if Marines need help with swimming.

The Marine Combat Water Survival staff includes 1st Lt. Derick C. Williams, the officer in charge; Master Gunnery Sgt. Eddie J. Fortson, the senior non-commissioned officer in charge; Cpl. Chad T. Wansing, instructor and Lane, also an instructor.

Also, for answers to any questions pertaining to swim qualification, call S-3 Training at 639-5130.

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