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Marine Corps Combat Water Survival Instructors

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Combat Water Survival Instructors

(Left to right) Cpl. Chad MacEvoy, Sgt. Stephan Crahan and Sgt. Matt Burinda of Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, G-3 training, hang out by the pool after a long day's work.

Official USMC Photo
Updated September 17, 2003

What would you say if I told you that there was a job in our Corps where you could spend all day in swimming trunks, hang out by a huge pool, drink margaritas and listen to Jimmy Buffet ... for three years?

OK, so the whole Jimmy Buffet and margaritas thing isn't true, but you would get to hang out by a pool all day and get a nice tan. Sounds great right? Not so fast.

Life has definitely seen more demanding times for the instructors of the Marine Corps Combat Water Survival unit at Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, CA. Now that's not to say that they haven't earned this job though. Each went through an extremely difficult three-week school, where countless hours are spent in the water perfecting each technique and rescue the Marine Corps stresses. Many graduates of the school describe it as one of the most physically demanding schools in the Marine Corps, and as legally close as you can get to water torture.

The instructors' days here are spent teaching Marines young and old the proper techniques to use in the water. From basic survival strokes, to rescues, to simulated situations one might face in combat, the instructors are a wealth of knowledge in all areas related to water survival. The instructors are very thorough and complete when explaining techniques, all questions are answered and every Marine is given adequate time to display to the instructors that they can perform the technique properly.

"This program is designed to increase the survivability of Marines in aquatic situations," said chief instructor Sgt. Stephen Crahan, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, G3 Training.

There are five levels of qualification in the program. Level four focuses on individual basic water skills, while level three concentrates more on aquatic situations with full gear. Level two centers on distance swimming with floatation, and level one is devoted to rescues. The final qualification level focuses on combat situations with full gear.

"The majority of Marines fall into qualification level three, while only about 10 percent of Marines are able to perform all tasks in order to reach the highest qualification," said Crahan.

Despite recent updates to the program, Crahan believes that additional changes need to be made.

"I think your swim qualification should somehow tie into the promotion process like the martial arts program will soon be. There are a lot of Marines that are either unqualified, or hold a low qualification because they don't want to put forth the effort to become better in the water."

In addition to providing the water survival qualification training, the Marines also can be scheduled to run a punishing physical training session for your unit.

Somewhere in their busy schedule of lounging by the pool and making drinks with the little umbrellas in them, the Marines also find the time to instruct the Young Marines, Devil Pups, and Sea Cadets on basic water safety and water confidence skills.

Even though the Marines take their job very seriously and are proud of teaching techniques that could help save someone's life, they also realize that they've got it pretty good. Now if they could just get one of those new ice machines for those frozen margarita's ...

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