Home News Marines swim through the Marine Corps Instructor Course of Water Survival

Marines swim through the Marine Corps Instructor Course of Water Survival


Surviving the cut: Marines train to be water survival instructors
Cpl. Thomas Masters, a Marine Corps Instructor Course of Water Survival student, acts as a panicking victim while grabbing hold of Sgt. Matthew Koetting, another MCICWS student, during a rescue swimming exercise. Photo by Lance Cpl. James Sauter

By Lance Cpl. Zachary OrrMARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII – Service members enrolled in the Marine Corps Instructor Course of Water Survival strive to achieve the title of a water survival instructor by completing a training program in the classroom and practicing those lessons at the base pool aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Dec.1, 2015.

MCICWS is a three week course that lasts 10 hours per day that educates Marines to be able to develop a water survival program for their own unit. The Marines will also be both a certified water survival instructor and American Red Cross lifeguard. They will be able to execute the basic procedures of emergency oxygen delivery, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and first aid.

Before starting the course, the Marine must complete the biennial swim qualification as an intermediate swimmer and be a noncommissioned officer and complete a screening exam. The screening consists of various swimming events ranging from swimming 25 meters to swimming 500 meters.

“During the first week, we’re essentially showing them how to teach and conduct a lesson on water survival,” said Gunnery Sgt. Zachariah Martin, a water survival instructor trainer with Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Pacific. “When they graduate, they will be the ones teaching water survival to Marines in their own unit. After that, we teach them various strokes and rescues, the dangers of hypothermia, and how to develop an emergency action plan if something were to happen.”

Martin, a Syracuse, N.Y., native said the instructor course is one of the hardest things he has ever done in the Marine Corps. He said he would rate the difficulty of the course with an eight out of ten.

“I think the physical training of the course is the right amount of work for the students,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brandon Soetaert, the chief instructor trainer for the MCICWS with EWTGPAC. “It’s a very physically demanding course but it’s at a level where it needs to be.”

Soetaert, a Kansas City, Mo., native said that water survival instructors must be physically fit to handle any circumstances that may cause difficulties because of the extra work required.

“For example, if they were on a beach with strong currents, they must be faster and stronger in order to reach the victim and accomplish their mission,” Soetaert said.

Capt. James Rooney, the officer in charge of MCICW, said the course not only ensures the students are fit and capable to be instructors, whose purpose is to make sure Marines are safe during basic swim qualifications, but also prepares them for real-world scenarios.

“It could be something simple, like someone falling out of a boat, but you would still want someone there who is comfortable enough in the water to help,” said Rooney, a Long Island, N.Y., native. “The perfect person for that is someone who has done this course – I’ve seen it for myself. In the past, Marines have freaked out in the water and instructors from EWTGPAC have needed to help them.”

Rooney said the course is something the unit leadership should put their Marines through because it is a good opportunity for the Marines to improve themselves physically, and mentally, as well as boost their confidence in the water. He also said that by sending Marines through the course, the overall strength of the unit is improved.

“Units usually have to call around to find a certified water survival instructor who can train the Marines in their unit, but if they have Marines that are certified water survival instructors, they wouldn’t have to waste their time looking for one,” said Rooney.

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