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Marines with Charlie Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, complete their surf qualification here, Sept. 6, 2013. The training ensured the Marines know how to properly evacuate their AAV and swim back to shore in case of an emergency. The battalion conducts the surf qualification annually. The swim to shore presents the Marines with many challenges, including the confidence to jump into the cold water while facing the waves rushing over them.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Moore

Gators conduct surf qualification

13 Sep 2013 | Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Moore 1st Marine Division

Amphibious assault vehicles transporting Marines with 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, traveled 500 meters offshore and stopped in the middle of the waves. Approximately 10 Marines from each vehicle jumped into the water and swam back to shore during an annual surf qualification here, Sept 6.

The training ensured the Marines know how to properly evacuate their AAVs and swim back to shore in case of an emergency.

“It’s to simulate an AAV sinking in the ocean,” said Lance Cpl. Levi M. Borsch, a mechanic with Charlie Company. “We have to be able to evacuate it in a timely manner and be able to swim back to shore.” 

The swim to shore presents the Marines with many obstacles, including the challenge to jump into the water while facing the waves rushing over them. 

The main focus of the training was for the Marines to gain the confidence of being in the ocean, said 1st Lt. Evan Phillips, the platoon commander for Charlie Company. 

It is important for the Marines to swim in the ocean rather than pools to get the full experience of evacuating from an AAV. The cold water, large waves and currents that can drag the Marines further down the beach and away from their intended destination, make the swim more difficult.
“The ocean is different than a pool in all instances,” said Phillips, a native of Springfield, Mo. “We have to know rip currents and tides. It’s something we just learn by doing. So that’s the biggest thing, gaining confidence in the ocean is the number one priority.”

Borsch, a native of La Grande, Ore., said the swim was exhausting. He did not expect it to be so rough. 

“I’ve swam the 250 meter qualification and it wasn’t that bad, but doubling that distance was very tough,” he said. “The waves crashing over me were also a big challenge.”

Some of the Marines found the qualification difficult due to the distance. 

“This was my first time doing the qualification,” said Pfc. Andrew L. Rosquist, a crewman with Charlie Company. “It was hard to anticipate what was going on, so when I first jumped into the water, the cold just hit me. When I swam about half way back, I felt as if I was going nowhere.”

Each service member had a partner during the swim in case of any problems making it back to shore. They also had a life preserver to aid in the 500-meter swim. The service members wore a white shirt if they were basic or intermediate swim qualified. Weaker swimmers were matched up with a stronger swimmer.

“They just have to get use to the ocean,” Phillips said. “That’s all it is. Get use to the cold water, make sure you can relax out there and be calm in that environment. If you can do that, it’s pretty easy.”

The Marines came away from the surf qualification better prepared for emergency situations and more confident in their ability to survive in open waters, Phillips said.

Also joining the Gators was their new battalion sergeant major. 

Sergeant Maj. Michael Woods, a tanker by trade, found the event fun and a great way to build teamwork.

“Conducting surf qualification with the men of Charlie Company was a blast,” Woods added. “Training like this is important because it helps build a team and reminds Marines that we are an amphibious force in readiness. Team Charlie did a great job this morning.”
1st Marine Division