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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Amphibious Forces: Annual training keep Marines current

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | September 23, 2010

The Marine Corps’ amphibious nature has made it unique from all other branches in the military.

From World War II to the present, in war and in peace, the Corps has navigated the seas to bring an end to tyranny and help those who are in need.

To remain skilled in fighting in amphibious environments, Marines participate in annual swim qualifications training.

Various commands throughout Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany sent 130 Marines to complete their annual swim qualification requirements at the base pool, Sept. 14-15.

All 130 Marines qualified and 15 qualified as Water Survival Qualified, the highest level.

 “The primary focus and objective of the training requirement is to teach water survival techniques as well as increase the confidence of the individual Marine,” said Master Sgt. Mark Carabello, operations and training chief, S-3, Operations and Training Division, MCLB Albany.

 Because of the limited resources here, a mobile training team was requested from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to conduct the swim qualifications, he said.

Staff Sgt. Margaret Smith, Marine combat instructor trainer of water survival, Water Survival School, Marine Corps Combat Services Support School, Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Cpl. Jeremiah Reilly, Marine combat instructor of water survival, WSS, conducted the training.

Before entering the pool, the instructors explained and demonstrated each maneuver the Marines had to perform before advancing to the next level.

 “We enjoy what we do and that is why we have a high success rate,” said Smith, one of two instructor trainers at Camp Lejeune.

The Marines were motivated and willing to try for a higher qualification level, she added, noting each qualification is unique in its own way.

“There was one thing that stood out from the other qualifications, the Marines here practiced before coming to the pool,” Smith said. “This is uncommon.”

Several Marines expressed they would be back next year to try for a higher level. Smith said she will hold them to it.

 “WSQ is mental endurance,” Smith said. “If you made it through Combat Water Survival-1, it shows you have the ability. In addition to the requirements for CWS-1, Marines had to tread water for 30 minutes back to back. It may not sound hard but after going through the levels, it becomes a mental game.”

Once a Marine obtains WSQ, they must re-qualify every six years.

Smith does not force Marines to another level, but encourages them if they are ready.

“Some Marines may be afraid of heights,” Smith said. “I don’t push Marines off the tower into the water. If I push Marines, I would be teaching them fear. I teach them and let them jump off the tower when they are ready.  I help them to survive in the water on their own.”

Marines were identified to attend the training because their qualification status expired or would expire this year prior to the team’s arrival.

Among those identified was Cpl. James Fuller, French horn player, Albany Marine Band, Marine Corps Logistics Command, whose last qualification was CWS-4.

“I wanted to get better so I pushed myself because I didn’t want to settle,” said Fuller, who qualified as WSQ. “The training we received was very important because Marines are to be an amphibious force and are trained in all types of terrain. Marines have been storming beaches and jumping into 20 feet of water for years.”

For Cpl. Benjamin Boughton, percussionist, Albany Marine Band, the training allowed him to achieve WSQ status.  

 “I am usually a good swimmer, but have not had the opportunity until now to continue at swim qualification training,” said Boughton, whose previous level was CWS-4. “I wanted to pass CWS-4, but never thought I would be able to make it to WSQ. I decided to go until I couldn’t go any further.”

Carabello said this is the first time he seen everyone in the group pass the swim qualification training.

“The instructors provided a motivating and positive environment,” Carabello said. “In this type of environment, Marines are going to be more willing to learn, apply and push themselves harder than they would normally do.”