Camp Pendleton, Calif. -- “It pays to win!” With a short whistle blast, Staff Sgt. Dennis Lee, scout swimmer course director, sent ten Marines dressed in their camouflage utilities and a pair of diving fins splashing into the water for a race in the pool as part of their daily conditioning.
Ten Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit checked into Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif., on Monday, March 20, for a three-week scout swimmer training course in preparation for a deployment to the Western Pacific later this year.
During the three-week course, students will receive numerous classes including maritime navigation, tides and tidal currents, beach interpretation, computing visibility of lights, hazardous marine life, scout swimmer insertion and extraction techniques, ocean current, and surf observation.
“Scout swimmers will potentially be going into harms way while in the water,” said Lee. “This is a very physically demanding course that is designed to prepare the Marines for extensive saltwater operations.”
According to Lee, scout swimmers will have to make an educated decision on whether or not it is safe enough to make the swim ashore, or to make the entire trip in a boat.
“You never know where you may end up having to swim on a deployment,” said Lee. “It is vital that you get intelligence reports on where you will be swimming, including information on all dangerous aquatic life that lives in that region.”
Throughout the length of the course, the Marines will be graded four times, including one written test and multiple graded missions. Another requirement is for the Marines to complete a 2,000-meter ocean swim with full gear in just 68 minutes.
Marines attending the course must be in optimum physical condition before the course even begins. The course requires each student to have a first class swim qualification and high physical fitness test score to attend.
According to Lee, most of the Marines that attend this course are already pretty comfortable in the water. To be a scout swimmer though, Marines will be required to swim long distances in the ocean with full gear, and that is something that not many of them have done before.
“I feel like I just ran three [physical fitness tests],” said Lance Cpl. Shawn Storeby, a machine gunner with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, as he climbed out of the pool at the end of training day two.
One of the classes the Marines received was on hazardous marine life, which included prevention and treatment of animal attacks, because throughout the course each student will complete numerous long distance swims in the ocean.
“I know it sounds bad but it is probably better if it takes your arm completely off so it can’t pull you under and drown you,” said Lee, referring to a saltwater crocodile when giving a class on hazardous marine life. “This class is not intended to scare you, it is to make you aware of what is out there and keep you from panicking if you ever do come across something.”
The Marines will not only practice swimming up to open beaches through surf zones, but also in urban benign waters, conducting a mission in each environment at the end of the course.
“By the time the Marines complete the course, they will have completed one of the physically toughest courses offered in the Marine Corps,” said Lee. “This course is definitely not for everybody.”