Swim qualification prepares Marines for water survival

15 Jan 2013 | Sgt. Cassandra Flowers

As a part of the Department of the Navy, being amphibious warfighters has always been an innate aspect of being a Marine. Marines stormed the beaches of the Pacific and manned Navy ships at sea. Although not a yearly requirement like the physical fitness training tests, swim qualification is still a mandated Marine Corps training requirement that has the power to save a Marine’s life.

In 2003, two Marines drowned while trying to cross the Suddam Canal while bearing a full combat load in Iraq. 

"These two guys went into the waterwith full camouflage gear and rifles and they sank to the bottom like a rock,”J.M. Eddins Jr., a photographer for The Washington Times assigned to a Marine Corps supply unit said.

In response to devastating events like this, the Marine Corps revamped in 2011 its swim qualification to ensure Marines bearing a full combat load are trained for survival in the water. The new swim qualification requires Marines to wear camouflage utilities, boots, aflak and a Kevlar, in addition to a rifle. 

During one portion of training, Marines must shed this gear while treading water and then complete a 250-meter swim.

“They added some good stuff like the gear shed that works really well for the fighting we’re in now,” said Sgt. Mclaren, Marine Corps instructor of water survival trainer at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.  “We wear so much gear, and learning how to take it off properly in the water will help a Marine. Swimming with boots on and full cammies gives you more real life situations because you’re always going to be wearing them. Those two things added into the program help a lot.”

The new swim qualification focuses on a Marine’s ability to effectively react to and survive life-threatening situations in the water. Swim qualification aims to build confidence in the Marines and ensure their abilities to survive a life-threatening situation in the water such as a vehicle flipping over into abody of water.

“Teaching someone a skill that could somedaysave their life is very important,” Mclaren said.  “If you don’t know how to swim, especially with cammies and boots on, that’s a big deal. If you’re confronted with a lifeand death situation, you need to be prepared for it. As the Marine Corps continues to adapt to ever-changing war zones, training like the new swim qualification allow Marines to remain prepared for whatever they may face. “

Headquarters Marine Corps