CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa — Most Marines would think swimming all day would be a relaxing way to spend their time. Some may prefer to be drenched in water from a pool rather than drenched in sweat, after a training session.
After a grueling two-week training package consisting of open-water swims with gear, hundreds of laps in a pool and being physically bound while swimming, Marines with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion were soaked in both water and sweat.
By sacrificing these personal comforts and dedicating themselves to the completion of the training, they are now prepared mentally, physically and emotionally to successfully complete their upcoming combatant diver course, according to Staff Sgt. Sigifredo Apodaca, lead Marine combat instructor of water survival with 3rd Reconnaissance Bn., 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“The pre-dive training the Marines are going through is somewhat harder than the training they will see at the school house,” said Apodaca. “We make it harder so we know without a doubt that the Marines we send are going to complete the course successfully.”
“This training helps me and the other Marines here stay calm under stressful situations in the water,” said Cpl. Nicholas E. Schmidt, a student in the course. “There are Marines who came here as strong swimmers, but had some difficulties when put in different situations.”
During the pre-dive training, the Marines were required to perform a 2,000-yard open-water swim in less than one hour while wearing their utility uniform, scuba fins, life vest, tactical board for navigation, combat knife, snorkel mask and a six-pound belt.
“If the Marines don’t trust their navigational equipment here, they are going to fail when they have to do it at night and can’t see,” said Staff Sgt. King Ritchie III, a pre-dive instructor with the battalion. “We have to help (them) sometimes and give them words of wisdom because some of them drift off track and can make the 2,000 yards harder than what it is.”
After completing the open water swim, the Marines completed a special operations command screener, requiring them to swim with their hands and feet bound together.
The Marines also had to tread water for five minutes while wearing two-scuba tanks, scuba fins, life vest, snorkel and an 18-pound belt, said Ritchie.
“On the last day, Marines are expected to meet our requirements before we send them off to the course,” said Ritchie. “If they don’t meet our requirements they can try again during the next course we hold.”
During the pre-dive training, the Marines showed improved swimming abilities and proficiency in the use of the equipment, according to Ritchie.
“I have enjoyed this training a lot and think it’s a good thing they have us do before we head off to the course,” said Schmidt. “Without this training, I think many of the Marines wouldn’t know how to do some of these things when we go to the course.”
Because the training is so challenging, they have to make sure they eat well and get plenty of sleep, said Schmidt. Their bodies take a beating from all the training.
“This is the hardest pool training I have ever had to do,” said Schmidt. “It builds you up physically, mentally and prepares you for the combatant diver course.”