Swim qualification is one of many requirements necessary for Marines throughout their careers. For many, it is the hardest. Whether you were an “iron duck” in boot camp or a member of your high school swim team, the qualifications for the Marine Corps Water Survival Training Program prove to be a challenge. Swimming in oversized cammies alone is a difficult task, but the addition of a flak jacket, a Kevlar helmet, boots, a pack and a rifle threaten to submerge even the strongest swimmer.
Beginning April 15, the newest requirements for the Water Survival Training Program will be implemented Corps-wide. Since November of last year, the Marine Corps water survival instructors have been prepared to teach the new swim qualifications.
Under the new program, the former six levels of qualification were reduced to three – basic, intermediate and advanced. This change is modeled after the three levels of rifle qualification.
The most notable alteration, however, is the focus on gear during qualification. A new test called the gear drop requires Marines to remove all of their gear while submerged.
“They’re trying to put emphasis on surviving in the water with a full combat load, being able to shed your gear and basically just being able to survive in the water,” said Sgt. Todd Crowell, swim qualification instructor.
These new tests aim to equip Marines with practical skills for combat situations.
“The needs of combat have changed, along with the gear as well,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Reyes, a Marine Corps instructor of water survival. “The program now has all the gear we use in combat. The fundamentals will remains the same, but the tasks the Marines execute will be more realistic to today’s combat.”
In addition to creating combat readiness, the new requirements will reduce the annual training requirements for Marines. Under the new program, Marines will requalify at a maximum of every three years, as opposed to two years under the old system.
The good news is that all Marines who qualified under the old program will not be obligated to pass the new requirements until their current qualification expires. That will give all those former “iron ducks” a chance to hit the pool before they face the new standards.
The modifications to the swim qualification requirements are just another way the Marine Corps is demonstrating its commitment to adapting and overcoming in order to equip its forces for ever-changing combat situations.