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Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
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Marines participating in pre-screening for Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival training swim laps at the training tank July 21.

Photo by Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

Sink or swim; combat water survival instructors wanted

21 Jul 2009 | Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

The Marine Corps Instructor Trainers of Water Survival team is seeking Marines who want become combat water survival instructors during a course at the Combat Center's training tank Aug 10 through 28.

“There is a shortage of instructors on base to conduct CWS [combat water survival] training and the training tank does not have a MCIWS on staff,” said Gunnery Sgt. David G. Burlingame, a former swim instructor and the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Combat Center’s Communications and Information Systems branch.

The Marine Corps Instructor Trainers Water Survival team is from the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific, Naval Station North Island and Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif.

In the course, Marines will swim laps, tread water while wearing the utility uniform, Kevlar helmet and rubber M16A2 service rifle, and perform underwater evasion techniques to escape enemies.

Many Combat Center Marines have already undergone pre-screening for the course at the training tank.

Any Marines with powerful swimming skills are eligible to participate in the pre-screening trials. 

Sgt. J.B. Day, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Headquarters Battalion operations, has already begun the pre-screening process in anticipation of the course.

“I’m very comfortable and confident in the water,” said Day, a Vincennes, Ind., native. “I’ve also noticed too many Marines have trouble in the water. I want to help establish aquatic confidence in those Marines.

When I complete the course, it will give me a wealth of knowledge to pass on to other Marines.“I read that in OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] in 2003, 29 Marines drowned,” he said. “Even one Marine is too many, especially considering Marines are amphibious by nature.”

Burlingame, an Ojai, Calif., native, attended previous swimming courses, like the American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor training, while stationed at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii in the late 1990s.  

 “MCIWS adds safety by enabling units to train Marines in water survival techniques that can save their lives in a combat scenario,” he said.

Burlingame advises Marines who struggle in the water to seek out their unit MCIWS instructor who graduate from the course.

For more information regarding MCIWS certification refer to Marine Corps Order 1510.125. To set up a pre-screening, call 830-6212.

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms