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Swamp Foxes make splash at swim qual

20 Aug 2004 | Cpl. Kat Johnson Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Being leary of Friday the 13th can be normal for many, but for the 150 Marines standing beside three quarters of a million gallons of water, it was expected.

Last Friday, a majority of Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron spent their morning attempting swim qualification at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Pool.

“This is my third time doing it since I joined the Marines,” said Cpl. Chris Lindley, Provost Marshal’s Office, H&HS. “Every year, the anticipation of jumping off the tower gets better and easier.”

As more than a third of H&HS lined up along the deep end of the pool to prepare for their ten-foot plunge, loud, motivating shouts from swim instructors filled the air.

“Get up that tower, be calm, be focused and jump” was heard throughout the pool complex from Staff Sgt. Dan Maddix and Sgt. Karen Hogan, Marine Combat Instructors for Water Survival, Parris Island Pool.

“Jumping off the tower is only the beginning of swim qual,” Maddix said. “Marines still must be able to float in the water and swim 25 meters before they pass category four.”

Category four is the minimum requirement  for swim qualification. Marines have an option of continuing their swim qualification up to level one if they successfully complete categories four, three, and two.

“I’m not going to lie,” Maddix said. “Qualifying for category one is hard work and most Marines don’t go out for it. But if they do make it to level one, not only will they be able to save themselves, they will be able to save someone else.”

Swim qualification is a yearly requirement for all Marines, in order to maintain updated service records. It is designed to teach the necessary techniques for basic water survival. Every fiscal year, Marines are required to qualify in one of four swim categories, based on what they qualified in the previous year.

Marines who choose to qualify in category one only have to requalify every three years instead of yearly.

“Even if a Marine feels as if they can’t make category one, they should still, at least, give it a try,” Maddix said  .

During category one, Marines are taught  rescue techniques and survival swim strokes that will enable them to save other Marines stranded in the water. 

Attempting to qualify in category one is a sign of a Marine with good leadership traits, according to Staff Sgt. Joe Houle, MCIWS, Parris Island Pool. It shows they are not afraid to try something new, regardless of the outcome.

Keeping a high level of motivation to keep pushing Marines past what they think they cannot do is not hard, according to Maddix. He believes it is  mostly because all swim instructors are also Drill Instructors.

“No matter what category Marines qualify in, we are going to push them to their max,” said Staff Sgt. David Bauman, MCIWS, Parris Island Pool. “When they leave our complex they will have completed something, whether it be a one or a four, at least they will feel as if they gave it their all. And if that happens, then I’m doing my job.”

By the morning’s end, some Marines were category one swimmers, but a majority were level four.

“ I always ask myself if I will make level one or even  qualify at all,” Lindley said. “I made category four this time, I guess I’ll just have to wait until next year to get the rest of my answer.”

After a morning of plunges, thrashes, and screams from eager Marines, the Parris Island pool once again took on its serene appearance. In less than two days, however, it will awaken to answer the fears of another group of Marines.