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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany


Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Swimming to train

By Cpl. Nicholas Tremblay | | July 18, 2002

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With the Georgia heat in the 90's, many may consider it to be ideal weather to swim in the base pool. Along with cooling-off, Marines can brush-up on their swimming techniques to prepare for upcoming water combat training qualifications. Since the pool is only open for a few months out of the year, it would benefit Marines to qualify for swimming now, to meet Marine Corps standards.

But even for Marines who donÕt have to qualify, they can still exercise at the pool, said Staff Sgt. David McKinley, MCLB Albany's Chief Water Combat Training Instructor. The pool is open Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for Marines who want to swim laps. Work sections looking to challenge other sections in friendly competitions in the water can do so, said McKinley. Even Marines who just want to get away from the monotony of running can schedule sessions through McKinley. He has a variety of activities that are fun and will help condition Marines' bodies.

"Swimming conditions your whole body," said McKinley, who is not only a certified Marine Corps Combat Water Survival Instructor, but has also been a certified rescue diver since 1995 and a lifeguard for years. "You use just about every muscle in your body. Not only is it physically a good workout but it is also a good cardiovascular workout."

Swimming involves the use of lungs, legs, back and chest, so individuals work just about every aspect of their body, said Sgt. Chad Wansing, Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival here. When swimming, treading water and exercising in the pool, the water exerts negative resistance on the body increasing the value of the workout. For group exercise, Wansing and other instructors can set up various games such as water polo and underwater hockey. According to Wansing, these games are fun and they teach Marines teamwork and help build unit cohesion.

Underwater hockey is a one of Wansing's favorite team water-sports, he said. The game takes place in the deep-end and played the width of the pool. Two cones are set on the bottom of the pool on each side making one goal for each team and a 10-pound weight is used as the puck. Each side must push the "puck" along the bottom of the pool and put it between the two cones to score a point. Wansing likes this sport because it promotes communication and coordination among teammates. It is also a tiring workout, since Marines are holding their breath while pushing the weight underwater.

Meeting the Corps' swimming standards has many other benefits besides Marines completing the necessary training and the physical aspects of swimming. Learning water survival techniques might someday save a Marine's life.

"More than just the physical side of having a good workout in the pool, being proficient in the water could be critical to a Marine's survival in a combat situation," said Wansing. "The water is all good and fun and you can get a good workout, but at the same time if it actually comes down to it, you need to be able to save a Marine's life."

Marines are taught everything from staying afloat for long periods of time to rescuing a drowning victim. Marines learn to survive in the water using their clothes and any equipment they have to make floatation devices. They are also taught how to survive if they are surrounded by burning gas or oil in the water; by forcefully splashing water toward the flames while swimming.

Everything Marines are taught is something that will stay with them, said Wansing. Although Marines stationed in Albany are less likely to deploy or find themselves on a ship, they might need the various water survival techniques they learn. Albany experienced a flood in 1994 and Georgia has beaches along the Atlantic Ocean and many rivers and lakes Marines can swim in and take boats to.

"It's better to train and be prepared than have something terrible happen to you or somebody else," said McKinley. "You might fall off of a boat or someone might start to drown, but sometime something's going to happen somewhere."

McKinley said if Marines don't practice swimming, their technique may become rusty and qualification difficult, especially if Marines haven't swam in over a year. He strongly encourages Marines to swim even if they don't have to qualify this year, so they will be ready for their next qualification.

"Swimming is something that if you don't use it you lose it," said McKinley. "If you don't practice it you get rusty and qualifying can be tough if you haven't swam since last year."

While some people might enjoy swimming and working out in the pool, others might clinch just at the thought of water. But the instructors are here to help Marines overcome their fear of the water, said Wansing. Feeling comfortable and making Marines realize they are in control even when they are in the water is the instructors' goal. Anytime a weak swimmer comes to the pool for assistance they don't push him past his confidence level, but instead they make him aware of his physical limitations.

"Just the thought of being in water over your head and having to survive can be down right terrifying," said Wansing. "But I try to develop their confidence by working with them in the shallow end, where they know they can still stand up. I make them realize that not touching the bottom in four-and-a-half feet water is no different than not touching the bottom in eight and a half feet water."

One thing Marines need to remember before swimming is to drink plenty of water, said McKinley. Some Marines may think since they are in the water they don't need to be hydrated as much as when they go running. But he said when swimming, they are more likely to become a heat casualty because the water constantly washes sweat away, which is the bodyÕs way to keep itself cool. So their bodies are prone to overheat and with the cool temperature of pool water Marines might not realize they are becoming dehydrated.

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

If Marines need to meet the Corps' swimming qualifications or just want to set up a time for their section to train at the pool they can call McKinley or Wansing at 639-5195.

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