WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, Japan –
Marines are known for their ability to operate in the air, on land and at sea. With this in mind, Marines looked towards the water, bracing themselves for their next dive from the sky, determined to conquer the challenges ahead.
Marines with Expeditionary Operations Training Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF, helocasted from a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter as part of the final evaluation during the three-week scout swimmers course Nov. 5 at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan.
The course teaches Marines how to perform insertion and extraction techniques by water, and become members of a battalion landing team‘s swimming element, according to Sgt. Jon C. Walters, a Matoaca, Virginia native and the senior amphibious raid instructor for EOTG.
The course started in the classroom, progressed to the pool, and ended in the waves of the ocean.
“We build their water confidence in the pool so when they are facing waves in their face, rip currents, and undertows, they have confidence in their ability to get out of them,” said Walters. “We brought the students out to the beach to take the skills from the classroom and pool to a real environment using natural and man-made structures.”
The skills the Marines learn in this course expand their ability to provide reconnaissance capabilities that are necessary during operations, according to Maj. Breck Perry, the expeditionary warfare branch officer in charge with EOTG, and a student of the course.
“Scout swimmers swim ashore as an advance force to provide security and set conditions ashore for raid forces to conduct their actions,” said Perry, from Fredericksburg, Virginia. “When reaching the objective you’re getting your mind in the fight, conducting observation reports, and analyzing the composition of the ground to inform the incoming forces.”
Aside from approaching their objectives using boats, Marines were also trained to perform amphibious insertions using rotary aircraft, also known as helocasting.
Marines prepared for the jump by taking classes, and practicing the procedures by jumping off a pier beforehand.
“It was like muscle memory after conducting the rehearsals in the boat basin, and all the Marines knew what they were doing when they entered the aircraft,” said Perry. “It’s always an adrenaline rush! You jump out, keep your knees together, make sure you have a tight body position, hit the water and safely get to the boat.”
The challenging course took the Marines beyond basic swimming skills, according to Sgt. Gerry Pratama, an Anahuac, Texas native and a student of the course.
“I learned how to effectively swim in all types of areas and terrain,” said Pratama. “This course definitely improved my swimming skills.”