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Seaman Rebecca Ward, a corpsman with The Basic School, simulates a panicking victim and submerges Staff Sgt. Adam Brooks, a precision weapons repairer and technician with Weapons Training Battalion, at Ramer Hall on Feb. 4, 2014. Brooks had to break away from the panicking victim and rescue her, as a part of Water Survival Advance qualification course.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah Luna

Water survival training can save your life

31 May 2017 | 2nd Lt. David Years Marine Corps Base Quantico

On Nov. 30, 1995, Lance Cpl. Zachary Mayo could not sleep and decided to walk the deck of aircraft carrier, USS America, during a deployment in the Arabian Sea. With a shift of the wind and sudden movement of the ship, Mayo fell overboard and watched as the ship continued its course. With nobody around to hear his cries for help, Mayo recalled his previous training, inflated his uniform into a life preserver and floated in the open sea for over 36 hours until being rescued by a Pakistani fishing boat. When questioned, the young Marine stated he “used the water survival training he learned in the Marine Corps.” This training ultimately saved the young Marine’s life.

Marines are inherently amphibious by nature and are expected to operate in aquatic environments. The Marine Corps Water Survival Training Program (MCWSTP) is designed to educate and train Marines to employ water survival skills of increasing levels to reduce fear, increase self-confidence and develop the ability to survive in water.

Currently, there are seven qualification levels in the MCWSTP. All Marines are required to meet the standard of Water Survival Basic, regardless of Military Occupa­tional Specialty (MOS). Water Survival Basic certified Marines possess the rudimentary skills required to sur­vive a waterborne mishap. Water Survival Intermediate and Advanced levels exceed the minimum standard, allowing Marines to improve their water survival skills.

Marines wanting to pursue Water Survival Advanced (WSA) or Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival (MCIWS) certifications, are required to attend the respec­tive course offered throughout the year. The WSA course trains Marines in aquatic rescue and survival techniques and the MCIWS course trains Marines in aquatic rescue and survival techniques, while also training Marines in coaching techniques. During both WSA and MCIWS, Marines learn four variations of water rescue techniques, learn critical survival strokes and conduct a timed swim.

The Ramer Hall pool located at Camp Barret, adjacent to The Basic School (TBS), offers “open swim qualifica­tion” every Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. for Marines interested in qualifying or requalifying in Water Survival Basic or Intermediate. No appointment is necessary, but calling ahead is recommended since TBS Basic Officer Course training takes priority. Lap swim hours are also avail­able for Marines and civilians from 6–7:30 a.m. and from 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. For course information or questions please contact Sgt. Bruce Suther­land, chief instructor at or call 703- 432-6466.

“In my time spent as a MCIWS at TBS, I have seen this program give many Marines, officers and enlisted, a new sense of confidence in the water. Put a rifle in a Marine’s hands and their mind and body will relax and revert back to training and muscle memory. That is the same reaction that as Instructors of Water Survival we aim to give Marines in an aquatic environment.”

Sgt. Fankboner, MCIWS

Marine Corps Base Quantico