JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, WA – Soldiers from 1st Special Forces Group participated in pre-Combat Divers Qualification Course training the past two weeks at JBLM.
The pre-CDQC class room and physical training gives soldiers a head start on what to expect during the main CDQC course in Key West, Fla. Soldiers who pass CDQC earn the right to call themselves Combat Divers.
Soldiers passed an initial test, which includes an Army Physical Fitness Test (scoring 70 points in every event), seven pull-ups, a 25-meter subsurface swim with one breath and a 500-meter surface swim in the Army Combat Uniform (minus boots), to qualify for the pre-CDQC course.
“Our goal is to fill the force. We have the capability to train up to 28 students per Pre-CDQC course,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Johnson, Chief Instructor for pre-CDQC. “Pre-CDQC is designed to mirror exactly what the students are going to see once they get down to Key West. We’ve done our very best to simulate the exact conditions that they’ll be in.”
The training is broken up into three parts, indoor pool, classroom lectures and American Lake, where soldiers learn about the physical and mental aspects of being a combat diver, and then get to apply them.
“Pre-CDQC is all designed to become comfortable in the water, moving the comfort level you currently have to a level way beyond where you thought you could be,” Johnson said.
During their training in the pool, soldiers learned to control their breathing through a series of subsurface swims and drownproofing.
Drownproofing is an exercise where students’ ankles and wrists are bound with their hands behind their back. They must then go through a series of exercises such as bobbing for single gasps of air, moving certain distances and performing underwater flips.
“The U.S. Navy drownproofing exercise is designed to show the candidates how to master being calm in the water,” Johnson said. “Everything about being a combat diver is about being able to control the environment in which you’re in.”
Indoor classes teach students about diving physics, diving medicine, and mental preparation. This cycle is the first to implement classes from the Army Center for Enhanced Performance for pre-CDQC at 1st Special Forces Group.
“I am training the brain. I train the elements such as attention control, being able to focus what your goal is to get the outcomes that you want,” said Eric Bean, Performance Enhancement Specialist with the ACEP. “We also teach self-regulation skills, being able to regulate the emotions and self-talk under the pressure, the pressure of performing, the fear of being in the water, and the stress of being in the water.”
The outdoors portion took the students to an uncontrolled environment and tests their ability to complete long distance surface-swims. Over the two-week course, distances increase from 500 to 3,000 meters.
“A lot of these events have a physical component,” Bean said. “These guys are already Special Forces. They’re physically very gifted.”
Soldiers who passed the pre-CDQC course showed a significant increase in abilities to stay calm, fix problems and perform in the water over the past two weeks, and can now take on the challenges they will face in Key West.