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06-24-05, 05:44 AM
Marines get wet
200 in Valley unit storm YMCA pool for combat water-survival training

Jim Williams
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 24, 2005 12:00 AM

Think treading water is easy? Add a 30-pound backpack, a rubberized rifle, full-dress camouflage fatigues and combat boots, and it becomes something out of an Ironman competition.

Welcome to the world of Marine combat water-survival qualification.

More than 200 Marines of the Marine Reserve Bulk Fuel Company C gathered at the Southwest Regional YMCA in Goodyear on Saturday night to test their swim qualifications. advertisement

The YMCA's aquatic center, with its 25-meter Olympic-size pool, was one of only a few facilities in the Valley large enough to host a group of this size.

"When the opportunity came up, we were fortunate and happy to be able to make it available," said Gene deManicor, executive director of the Southwest Regional YMCA. "This is a community pool, and the military are a big part of our community."

When deployed, Bulk Fuel Company C is responsible for setting up fuel supply lines on the battlefield. The unit is in the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center, 1201 N. 35th Ave., Phoenix.

Commanding Officer Maj. Tom Marble said the company has about 330 Marines assigned to it. The unit is part of the 6th Engineer Support Battalion. Company C last saw action in 2003 in Iraq but must stand ready to deploy. Water survival is a core skill that all Marines must have, Marble said.

"Our origin is from the sea, for amphibious assaults," said Marble, who went through the training with the rest of the Marines.

"I haven't done it in a while. It might be a little tougher now that I'm 40," Marble said, laughing.

Combat water-survival qualification is required for Marines to stay in good standing. It has five skill levels, beginning with 4th Class and getting progressively more difficult with each skill classification.

"We start out with really basic drown-proofing skills," Marble said. "A lot of this is to simulate falling overboard or finding yourself in the water, and how to survive."

An instructor, Staff Sgt. John Miller, 29, was flown in from South Bend, Ind., to conduct the training and certification.

"Every skill level builds on the one before," Miller said. "At 4th Class, we want to build confidence in the water, get them used to doing things in this environment."

Later skill levels involve stroke proficiency, lifesaving techniques and treading water in full gear for extended periods, Miller said.

"These are Marines. It's important that they train in the water in because we never know when we might be placed in this situation," he said.

Tanya Dyster, 23, received her 4th Class qualification but said it was not without challenges.

"It was a thrill, but a little scary. But you get over it," she said.

Lance Cpl. Carroll Creston, 21, also passed 4th Class but joked that he looked like a blowfish while treading water in his fatigues.

"I didn't have any trouble, but it did look funny," Creston said.

Ivan Buenrostro qualified for 4th Class, but he struggled at the next level. While jumping from the high dive in full gear and gun in tow, he failed to be able to swim out of the deep water and was forced to redo the exercise.

The 21-year-old was determined to pass.

"It's not that hard if you know the technique," Buenrostro said. "The adrenaline rushes through you and you get locked up. I'll try again, and this time I know what to do."

Buenrostro qualified for 3rd Class.

The certification process went from 6 p.m. to midnight. Marble smiled as he watched Marines from his unit qualify:

"These are my boys!"