Photo Information

Sgt. Anthony Poznanski, a drill instructor with Company M, 3rd Recruit Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, pulls Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory M. Brandon, a corpsman with Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton during full-gear rescue swims aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, March 11. The Marines and sailors spent three weeks training to become Marine Combat Instructors of Water Survival. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin) (Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

Marines, sailors swim through MCIWS course to graduation

12 Mar 2009 | Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

  Marine Corps’ swim training has granted generations of Leathernecks the capability to defend freedom from any shore throughout the world. A select few are trained to instill and develop those skills and to pass on the knowledge of water survival to the next generation.

  Marines and sailors from the region graduated the 15-day Marine Combat Instructor Water Survival course, March 20, at the Marine Combat Water Survival Training Facility aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, after pushing their stamina to new levels.

  The course was recently moved here to accommodate the training while the Navy reconstructs the pool used by the MCIWS course at Naval Base Coronado.

  The MCIWS course consists of physical training, rescue drills, constant swimming and several training events. Classroom instruction breaks up the hours spent in the 50-meter pool. The Marines swam for several hours, under and above the surface of the pool, each day. Eight instructors kept constant watch over more than a dozen students as they completed each day’s tasks.

  The students underwent rescue drills wearing Kevlar helmets, flak vests, utilities and boots. They swam to a person who simulated a drowning victim. The victim then attempted to bring the rescuer under the water’s surface. The rescuer then used a pressure point to break free from the victim. After giving the victim a verbal warning to the victim, the rescuer towed him to safety. Each of the students performed this exercise dozens of times throughout the course to stay proficient. 

  “This is one of the three most physically demanding courses the Marine Corps has to offer,” said Staff Sgt. Evan Clayton, the director of Water Survival School, Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific. “This course produces the top 10 percent Marine swimmers and sailors attached to Marine units. This results in them going back to their unit and squaring away annual training requirements without the need to borrow an instructor from another unit.”

  Before the students set foot in the pool, they passed a series of prerequisites to ensure they had the physical and mental fortitude to finish the course. Marines and sailors were screened with a swim test conducted by a current Marine Combat Instructor Trainer of Water Survival, had orders containing a statement from their commanding officer certifying successful completion of the prescreening process and were water survival qualified with at least one year left of active duty.

  “It’s been an awesome course and the most challenging thing I have ever accomplished,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory M. Brandon, a corpsman with Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. “I’ve not only pushed myself hard, I’ve learned so much about dangers of aquatic situations, lifesaving techniques and how to be a better mentor.”

  While they have the chance to conduct swim qualifications, the new instructors will have much more to offer their unit. This course is not just about swim qualification.

  “Iraq has plenty of waterways that a majority of the drownings happen within theater,” said Clayton. “These graduates have become subject matter experts in regards to all water survival related subjects. This means unit leaders can use their knowledge to help safely execute tactical-water crossings, beach landings and other events.”

  The graduates now have a three-year certification and a secondary military occupational specialty that they can use to instruct and lead Marines from combat water survival class four through combat water safety swimmer.

  “You can succeed in a water survival situation if you get past the mental fear of drowning,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon A. Guild, a MCIWS instructor. “Panic is one the main reasons someone drowns. Using your water survival knowledge, maintaining professionalism and having confidence will keep you and your fellow Marines alive.”

  The instructors plan to begin another course in June. Those interested in becoming an instructor can start the enrollment process and achieve the requirements by coordinating with their unit’s training section.