View Full Version : Marines face more intense swim training

10-10-04, 09:56 AM
Water World
Marines face more intense swim training
Published Sun, Oct 10, 2004

Gazette staff writer
Still dripping, Kurt Brutting struggled to catch his breath after pulling himself from Parris Island's combat pool Friday afternoon.
The 21-year-old Marine Corps recruit from New York state had just finished a 50-meter swim with 35 pounds of gear weighing him down and an M-16 slung over his back, part of the Combat Water Survival training all recruits undergo on the island.

"During the 50-meter swim I thought I was going to give up,'" Brutting said, standing at attention while fellow recruits from Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion struggled through the water. "Something told me to just keep going."

Brutting and the rest of his company were in the middle of their third day of swim training at the Marine Corps recruit depot. After a weekend break from the pool, the recruits will hit the water again Monday and Tuesday, some aiming to qualify at a higher level and others hoping to just qualify at all.

Starting in April, incoming recruit classes were faced with the new five-day swim training schedule, instead of the old Monday through Thursday schedule, as instructors aimed to increase the number of recruits qualifying at higher levels.

"That gives them the weekend in between the third and fourth swim training days to sort of rest their muscles up," said Col. Kevin Kelley, the commanding officer of the depot's Recruit Training Regiment.

The depot's goal, Kelley said, is for 20 percent of recruits to qualify at Combat Water Survival 2, which Brutting was struggling through Friday. Under the old schedule, about 19 percent of recruits qualified at that level, the second highest attainable. Since the new system was instituted, 27 percent have reached level two, Kelley said.

"The fifth day gives the instructors some extra latitude and allows us to qualify recruits at a higher level," Kelley said.

The extra day also gives recruits struggling to qualify at the lowest level, Combat Water Survival 4, more opportunities, said Staff Sgt. Anthony Davis, a Marine Combat Instructor/Trainer of Water Survival.

"They have a better chance of making it," Davis said. "They have more chances to try and advance to the next level."

A second significant change to recruit training this year was the movement of the Crucible from week 11 to week 10. The Crucible is the final, 54-hour test of recruits' mental and physical endurance, which challenges them to think for themselves for the first time, and to work as a team.

Since bumps, bruises and twisted ankles during the Crucible aren't uncommon, moving the event up a week gives recruits a longer amount of time to heal up before graduation, so they'll be healthy and ready for the school of infantry after leaving the depot, Kelley said.

Some kinks in the training schedule have also been worked out so administrative obligations, such as dental checkups, won't interfere with training, the colonel said.

Field firing at unknown distances has also been combined with Basic Warrior Training during week 9, and the final drill competition has been moved to week 11.

Overall, the changes have lead to healthier and better prepared Marines leaving the depot, said Staff Sgt. Brian Akers, a senior drill instructor with Echo Company.

"They're stronger. They're in better shape," Akers said. "They've got more intensity. The training is more life-like, mentally and physically."

That mental and physical toughness and intensity has new Marines better prepared for a future in which they could find themselves on the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan, Akers said.

"Before, you graduated 80 recruits," the senior drill instructor said. "They still had that recruit mentality. Now, you graduate 80 Marines."

As he awaited the next challenge of Combat Water Survival, recruit Brutting said the swim training had its moments of extreme difficulty, but that he expected it to all pay off in the end.

"It was harder than I expected," the recruit said. "I think I can go all the way."

Contact Michael Kerr at 986-5539 or mkerr@beaufortgazette.com.


Megan Lovett/Gazette
A marine recruit takes a gulp of air during the start of a 50-meter swim for Combat Water Survival 2, the third level of combat swim training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on Friday afternoon.


Megan Lovett/Gazette
A marine recruit from Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, focuses on the final stretch of a 50-meter swim during the third day of combat swim training at Parris Island on Friday afternoon.


The Drifter's Wife


10-10-04, 02:01 PM
Hmm... without getting up on too much of a soapbox, allow me to comment briefly on the supposed "improvements" in the training schedule.

First off, swim qual is, and I suspect, always has been, a real challenge, if you decide to push yourself. I qualified as an S-2, and was 3/4 of the way through S-1 qual before I got cut... I was POed, but it happens... the "Sharks" are expert instructors, but perhaps with a little bit of insanity and sadism thrown in for fun... they took a great delight in scaring the bejesus out of recruits, strong and weak swimmers alike. It's some motivated training, that's for sure.

Now, as for the "improved" training schedule. In short, I believe it undercuts some of the finer traditions of the Marine Corps on the ground level. First off, not everyone can be a Marine. This seems like an obvious statement to make in present company, but it seems to be something that the Marine Corps is slowly forgetting. What I saw at Recruit Training was drastically different from how I had imagined it, and how other Marines had described it to me. "Black Flag" conditions cut out much of our training, such as toning down some of the ops at the Crucible (which was nowhere NEAR as hard as expectations had been set), as did "Lightning in Five" alarms, which once again cut out a lot of our training. During the Crucible, we had a 2 hour L5 alarm where, instead of training, we sat on our packs under a thunderdome while the sky remained overcast. BWT, which used to be a 2 week field exercise type evolution, is now a single overnight op, plus some skills classes, combined with three days of A-Line field firing, for which we were given scorecards, but then, by way of actions of the pit and tower NCOs, told not to use them!

We had recruits who should've been NJPed and dropped during first phase be kept, over and over again, because of directions from higher, only to a)drag the platoon down and dishonor our Drill Instructors (i.e. the 4 recruits who participated in breaking into the SDI house and stealing chow that had been field stripped from our MREs... not only did they not have the stones to confess when the platoon was confronted with it, but their only punishment was suspended SDI time after the Crucible, and no "recruit liberty sunday." These recruits didn't even get NJPed, and went on to graduate with the platoon).

The coalesence of the platoon into a team, to be honest, never happened with my platoon. The guide was weak in terms of his ability to command the obedience of his squad leaders and other recruits, and to make matters worse, 2 of our 4 squad leaders were more often than not the ones f***ing around, so trying to get other recruits to follow their lead was nigh impossible.

In terms of intensity, the training has dropped down. Measures put in place to purportedly "protect" recruit welfare *WILL*, in the long run, have exactly the opposite effect, when ill-prepared recruits get shot and killed as a result of watered down training, and when Mommy asks the Marine Corps why Johnny died, HQMC's answer will be, "because of you, ma'am."

In terms of traditions, probably the biggest blow was the moving of the Crucible. While the Crucible is a fairly new idea in the long history of the Marine Corps, it was a good one! As a "transformation" type event, it served excellently to mark the transition from Recruit to Marine, and the Emblem Ceremony in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial is one of the most moving events I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Unfortunately, however, the ceremony I witnessed was not my own. It was several years prior to my own enlistment, and by the time I got there, it was something long dead, thanks to the "improvements" in the training schedule. Now, upon return from the Crucible, there's a 5 minute ceremony that we were rushed into in front of the Battalion Mess Hall, where we were given our Tan Belts, that we had actually rated since week 4, and our "Corps Values Cards." The Emblem ceremony then took place in front of families and friends who could not possibly understand the significance of it, though by then, that significance had been decidedly cheapened. While I understand the desire of the Marine Corps to produce "healthier" New Marines, the results are, in fact, a weaker Marine Corps.

OK, I'm off my soapbox for now. Perhaps some of you Marines could weigh in on this issue?

10-10-04, 02:22 PM
LivinSoFree, I go along with what you're saying.
It's an improvement but will the results be what the Marine Corps wants or desire.
The Crucible should have been left as it was first thought of.
Families and friends have no idea of what it took to earn the Emblem of our beloved Corps
As "healthier" Marines goes, I think the thinking is;
Best to have "healthy" Marines reporting for SOI or MCT than injured Marines.
With the hope that training will get the results of better trained Marines for combat...

Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi