CAMP ZAMA, Japan (May 31, 2012) -- U.S. Soldiers assigned here conducted training earlier this month with their Japanese counterparts on a variety of water-survival techniques as part of a cooperative work program conducted regularly at the installation here.

The 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion organized the aquatic training for a group of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, or JGSDF, members the unit is sponsoring for 90 days in order to share knowledge and foster further understanding between the two forces.

For two hours on May 11, the swimming pool at Camp Zama's Yano Fitness Center was essentially a classroom for the dozens of participating Soldiers and JGSDF members. Instructor Sgt. Joseph Enochs, assigned to the 35th CSSB, said the skills he teaches during the training are "very critical."

"It is key training ... that way, Soldiers know how to survive in the water for any type of situation," said Enochs, a certified water-survival instructor since 2003. "Not only is it applicable for exercises that Soldiers do, it's also for vehicle rollovers or if they are in an aircraft that goes down in the water."

The first portion of the training concentrated on teaching the participants the ideal method for entering a body of water, depending on both the height of entry and the depth of the water. Critical to each method was the participants' ability to keep their heads above water when jumping in, which required them to hold their arms to the side and create a wide silhouette with their body.

Enochs then demonstrated survival floating, or "dead man's float," a well-known method for holding one's breath when not treading water that allows a person to conserve his or her energy. Following the buoyancy test, the participants were required to tread water for five minutes in order to certify their training.

Rather than training in prescribed swimming gear, the participants wore their full combat uniform, boots and additional gear in the water. This was done because in the event of a water-related emergency while on duty, a service member would likely be wearing the latter configuration of clothing, Enochs said. While this added a level of realism to the training, it also upped the degree of difficulty, one participant said.

"I grew up swimming, and I consider myself a strong swimmer, but today's training event was pretty tough with all your gear and your uniform on," said Capt. Duane Dumlao, assigned to the 35th CSSB.

One JGSDF participant said she was surprised at her own ability to adapt to, and eventually excel at what she thought was going to be difficult training for her.

"I'm not a good swimmer, so I was a bit nervous before the training began," said Sgt. Yoshie Ito, a member of Co-op Group 64. "But after the class started, I was told that the primary intent of the training was not to learn how to swim well, but how to survive in the water. So in that respect, the training was very beneficial."

The final portion of the training involved Enochs showing the group how to use their combat uniform jacket and pants to keep them afloat. Once removed, a pair of ACU pants can be cinched at the legs, filled with air and worn around the neck as a makeshift life preserver. The Soldiers were also shown how to perform a similar technique with their jacket by breathing air into the open neck in the front.

Enochs said the entire group met the standards of the training, and he was confident they would be prepared in the event of a water emergency in the future. He also reiterated the importance of working and training together with the Army's counterpart services in Japan.

"We worked together during [relief effort] Operation Tomodachi, and we work together every day at Camp Zama," said Enochs, "so if anything was to happen, everyone would know what their role is, and how to do their part."

Page last updated Wed May 30th, 2012 at 00:00