Marines tread through water instructor survival course
By Cpl. James A. Sauter
| Marine Corps Base Hawaii | November 16, 2012
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
Marines shouted for help as their combat gear slowly tired their bodies and increased their threat of drowning in the pool. Another group of Marines at the opposite end heard the shouts and assured them they were coming to their rescue. After the Marine responders signaled to an imaginary bystander to get help, the Marines jumped into the water and swam toward the victims.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii
Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival course
More than 20 Marines from various units on Marine Corps Base Hawaii recently underwent the grueling hardships of the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival course at the base pool, Nov. 12.
Considered one of the toughest courses in the Marine Corps, physically and mentally, the three-week course teaches students to become water survival instructors. The course demands students be proficient in various skills in the event of an emergency situation. Upon graduation, the new water survival instructors can update Marines on their swim qualification.
“We want them to not only know the material, but master it,” said Gunnery Sgt. Derrick Huff, the course’s senior water survival instructor. “We have 16 evaluations and they need to achieve a culminating 80 percent average to pass the course.”
The wide range of training evolutions included challenges such as a 100-meter swim underwater without breaking the surface, an underwater brick push and a gear rescue. During the gear rescue evolution, 10 Marines in full combat gear waded in the water to simulate panicking victims. Another group of Marine rescuers signaled for help and entered the water to rescue each of the victims.
When 1st Lt. Clark Petersen, acting as the rescuer, approached 1st Lt. Roy Miller, his victim, he assessed Miller’s situation. Miller pretended to panic and pulled his rescuer underwater, simulating the natural instinct to grab hold of something to avoid drowning
“The students need to make it realistic for each other,” Huff said of victims pulling their rescuers underwater. “The key to this evolution is to do big wide kicks and power-breathing. Otherwise, come game day or in real life, they’re going to have a rude awakening.”
Underwater, Petersen performed an escape technique to avoid being drowned. In this situation, it was important for the rescuer to be proficient in the proper emergency handling techniques.
“I thought this was the most challenging course I’ve taken because it’s hard to get comfortable in the water,” Petersen said, after completing the course. “Being told to rescue someone in the water wearing gear is not something we train for everyday and I absolutely hate being dragged underwater. If you don’t know the techniques and it happens in real life, both of you could drown. This course prepares you for that situation and to know the proper techniques to handle it.”
After Miller calmed down, Petersen grabbed hold of Miller’s collar from behind and towed him to the opposite end of the pool without letting Miller’s face submerge to complete the evolution. During the final day of evaluations, the students were tested on three different rescues covering different victim behaviors and a final written exam.
“We’re expected to know everything this course teaches us inside and out,” Miller said. “The course does an excellent job of teaching us how to teach others. We didn’t just swim everyday; we taught mock classes to gain experience in teaching. If I were to have a class next week, I’m confident I could teach Marines water survival.”