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NEWS | Dec. 24, 2014

Marines Tackle Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival Training

By Christine Cabalo Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Marines dived in to the face the challenges of Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival course, which concluded Dec. 19, 2014 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s pool.

Those who passed the 15-day course earned both Marine Corps and civilian certifications for water rescues. A total of 18 Marines trained with visiting instructors from the Marine Corps Water Survival School in Camp Johnson, N.C. and Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Pacific in Coronado, Calif. The Marine Corps especially needs people trained to handle emergency situations in the water, said Master Sgt. Joshua Adkins, the course’s chief instructor and an operations chief at EWTG Pacific.

“We’re training them to give it everything (they’ve got), even when they are tired, to help their overall confidence in the water,” said Adkins, of Lake Wales, Fla. “If you aren’t confident in the water alone, you can’t convey that confidence to someone else in the water.”

During the course the Marines advanced their aquatic skills with endurance tests, speed drills, underwater swims and strength training. Marines practiced rescuing their classmates who simulated being both active and passive drowning victims. For some portions of the class, the Marines wore their full utilities uniform while carrying their weighted rifle replicas and water-logged protective gear. The group also practiced carrying bricks and other dead weight. Adkins said succeeding in the rescue portion of the course is one of the most difficult areas of training.

The instructors pushed the class endurance level out of the water as well. The group pumped out multiple push-ups and other stationary exercises, tiring themselves on land before hopping back into the pool for more aquatic rescue drills and strengthening exercises.

“This is simulating operating under stress,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brian C. Stanley, the operations chief at MCWSS. “Sometimes that can be self-inflicted stress. A lot of hesitation comes from a fear of failure. But we want to get them through this with so much training they are confident in whatever they do because they’ve been through arduous events in the water.”

The Marines also trained outdoors in Kaneohe Bay, carrying out rescue drills in the open sea. However the majority of the course featured aerobic and anaerobic exercises in the pool designed to increase strength and condition the Marines even when they felt exhausted, said Stanley, of San Antonio.

Although Adkins and Stanley said many in the course have good swimming skills, but mental toughness is also required to do well.

Cpl. Daniel Nappier, a Chinese linguist with 3rd Radio Battalion, said although his unit regularly does physical training in the water, he wasn’t fully prepared for how grueling the training would be.

“You feel like it could be so much easier to quit,” he said. “But you stay in the water to suffer it, and you (can) tell everyone later you did it.”

After facing these challenges, the Marines who do pass will earn American Red Cross certifications for lifeguarding and first aid. They will also carry a secondary military occupational specialty for water safety.

“After getting trained in this water survival course, the Marines can go back to serve in their unit trained to run swim qualifications,” Adkins said. “They can work with the service members in their unit who are not strong swimmers.”

Nappier said one of most challenging aspects of the MCIWS course is the mental difficulty of trying to stick with it, but good training can make all the difference.

“This is easily the most difficult course I’ve ever done before,” he said. “They’re teaching you to be physically and mentally strong, so that nothing in this course is impossible.”

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