By Michael Norris, Pentagram Assistant Editor May 31, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - A handful of U.S. Marines have been training this week to become certified lifeguards at Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec Pool on the Henderson Hall side of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
Seven Marines began classroom training May 28 in first aid, CPR training and automatic external defribulation, with five from the group moving forward the second day when hands-on instruction at the pool began. The pool training put the recruits in different real-life scenarios that simulate situations they might encounter as lifeguards.
The instructor is Laura Istvan, assistant pool manager at Zembiec and a certified Red Cross lifeguard instructor. She put the four men and one woman through their paces, testing their swimming ability, physical strength and attention to detail, all to ensure that in the event of an emergency, they are prepared.
Istvan huddled with several Marines out of earshot of two others, suggesting that they perform cannonball dives at the side of the pool to distract a designated "on-duty" lifeguard from noticing a potentially dangerous situation. In another instance, she had recruits use toilet paper tubes as mock binoculars to scan the pool in a surveillance exercise. The tubes help recruits focus their attention because they limit peripheral vision.
Istvan made sure her charges knew how to fasten flotation devices to drowning victims. She showed the group the fastest, most secure way to fasten a strap to an inert or struggling swimmer.
"We're going to do it a couple of times on land and then practice it in the water," she said, having each recruit play victim and then rescuer.
After several iterations, she added, "We're going to do this until you're bored," emphasizing the importance of repetition in getting the lifeguards to respond automatically in emergency situations.
"She's able to break everything down and make it understandable," said Sgt. Albert Felicio, driver for Henderson Hall's commanding officer, accessing Istvan's teaching style. He said he loves coming to the pool and already visits the facility several times a week for exercise.
Lance Cpl. Joshua Boloyan, who works in the H&S Bn. S-1, said he volunteered to make a difference; "to help save someone's life."
Master Sgt. Jerome Krejcha, the foreign language policy manager in the Marine Corps' Intelligence Department at the Pentagon, is a former Marine water survival instructor. While what recruits pick up at lifeguard training isn't specifically applicable to the service's survival swim qualification, he said the instruction does contribute to the Marines' physical training requirements and will ultimately make them more at ease in the pool.
"It gives skills that will make them comfortable in the water," Krejcha said. "They'll be able to stay calm amidst the chaos."
Staff Sgt. Andrew Proctor, combat physical training representative in H&S Bn.'s S-3 office, said training Marines as lifeguards will help the Corps be able to keep Zembiec Pool open after hours for special events like Single Marine Program gatherings and pool parties, supplementing civilian lifeguards already in place.
The Marine lifeguards are scheduled to complete their week-long training May 31.