July 27, 2012
By Lance Cpl. Donald T. Peterson, Marine Corps Bases Japan
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Okinawa, Japan — As the swimmer begins to panic, as if he is drowning, a Marine vigorously swims across the pool to perform the rescue procedures he just learned.
The Marine, and students like him, learned the rescue procedures during the Marine survival advanced course at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma 25-meter pool July 16-20.
“The purpose of the Marine survival advanced course is to teach Marines how to save a drowning person,” said Staff Sgt. Marques J. Johnson, a chief Marine Corps instructor of water survival for the Marine survival advanced course, and tactical air defense controller with Marine Air Control Squadron 4, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “By the end of the training, we hope to instill confidence in the Marines to not hesitate to save someone if they’re drowning.”
The Marine survival advanced course is a weeklong course of rigorous water training and rescue maneuvers.
“This course is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” said Pfc. Bryan Garcia, a student at the course and a motor vehicle operator with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st MAW, III MEF.
The students taking the course started each day with a 500- to 1000- meter free-style swim.
“Sometimes the students have (the Marine Corps combat utility uniform) on and strip off a layer of clothing every lap until they are just in their physical training shorts,” said Johnson.
Next, the Marines practice underwater swimming or brick training, which is when the students swim while carrying bricks. The Marines then begin rescue practices.
“During the first few days of training, we teach the proper rescue motions to save a drowning person,” said Johnson. “Then, when we think they have the technique down, we start practical application. The person they have to rescue is an instructor wearing full (Marine Corps combat utility uniform), flak, helmet and carrying a rifle.”
The day usually ends with water aerobics and a massive physical training session of different swimming styles, such as U-boats, which is when one lays on one’s back with feet out of the water and swims by pushing the water behind them with their hands.
“When I first came here, I thought (I) was just getting another swim qualification,” said Garcia. “I used to swim competitively before joining the Marine Corps, so I didn’t think it was going to be that hard, but it was definitely a challenge.”
The time and effort put into the course is beneficial not only for the Marines participating but also for those planning to improve their water-survival skills in the future.
“I would recommend anyone planning to take this course to train for it first,” said Johnson. “Spend a week or two in the pool, practicing frog kicks and swimming techniques, and come prepared for a workout.”