By Tim Hipps, U.S. Army Installation Management CommandJune 25, 2013
SAN ANTONIO (June 25, 2013) -- Installations are trying everything from an aquatics passport to taking part in the world's largest swim lesson to get their communities to plunge "Feet First into Water Safety."
Sports, Fitness and Aquatics programs on more than 25 installations across America, along with garrisons in Korea and Japan, are hosting at least two water-safety events during the National Safety Month of June.
The campaign was created to educate and create awareness about safe behavior in and around water to Army communities worldwide. The promotion provides garrisons with a way to showcase their water-safety programs.
Sports, Fitness and Aquatics is part of the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs provided by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
The Fort Riley School Age Center took part in the "World's Largest Swimming Lesson" day June 18 as part of their ZAC camp, named in honor of Zachary Archer Cohn, a 6-year-old who drowned when trapped in a swimming pool drain.
Fort Riley joined other aquatic facilities around the globe in hosting local lessons simultaneously at 11a.m. Eastern time June 18 in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record.
ZAC camps, a program of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and The ZAC Foundation, bring water-safety skills and basic swim instruction to thousands of 5- to 9-year-olds.
The Fort Riley Child, Youth and School Services School Age Program received a $10,000 grant from the ZAC Foundation and the Kansas post was selected this year as the lone military venue.
"With the increase in temperatures and school being out, a lot of the young children, teenagers and young adults are going to some kind of body of water," MWR aquatics manager Brigitta St. Armand said. "It could be a lake or a pool. Some of the places are with lifeguards and some are without lifeguards. Neither here nor there, immediate supervision for all children, and even young adults, is the responsibility of the parent.
"Always stay within arm's reach. Always know where your kids are, and remember that not only lakes, pools and oceans have certain dangers or unknown hazards. Become familiar with these hazards. Know what the weather is going to be like when you plan on going out."
The MWR aquatics folks at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., fashioned a couple of new ideas. The first is "Passport into Water Safety."
Participants will receive a "passport" and will need to go to all five of our aquatic facilities," aquatics director Jessica Rockhill explained in an email. "At each facility, a different safety topic will be displayed. Once the participant reviews the safety topic, they will have to answer a question from the lifeguard on duty. Once the question is correctly answered, the participant will get a stamp in their passport from the facility. Once the participant receives all five stamps, they will get a certificate."
That program will run throughout June.
Lewis-McChord's other event, "Sun, Sand, and Safety at the Beach" is set for June 26, 9 a.m. until noon, at Shoreline Park Beach.
"We will separate the kids into groups and rotate through various stations," Rockhill said. "Each station will discuss a safety topic relating to the Whales Tales safety topics we teach during Learn to Swim, and an activity. The activity I am most excited about is taking the kids out on a pontoon boat. This is in collaboration with our Outdoor Recreation Division."
The kids will have a chance to don their lifejackets while learning in sessions such as "Don't just pack it, wear your jacket," and "Learn about boating before you go floating."
"We'll also allow them to get in a canoe, paddle boat, and kayak," Rockhill said.
At Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., the Family and MWR folks opened their campaign with a Welcome to Lake of the Ozarks Recreation Area Open House on June 1. A Pippin Youth Center Splash and Play Week takes place June 24 through 28.
At Fort Polk, La., MWR presentations June 22 and 28 are geared toward boat safety, pool safety with reach-and-assist procedures, looking before entering lakes and rivers, parent orientation to swim lessons and home pool safety, capped by relay races in the water.
A pool movie night is on tap at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., and a dive-in movie night is slated at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.
The Family Readiness Group at Army North on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston had a "Feet First into Water Safety" event scheduled for June 11 at the Fort Sam Houston Outdoor Pool on Williams Road.
"Think of all the different hazards you might encounter with water, i.e. flash floods, rivers, undercurrents, rip tides. Just because you don't see the hazard doesn't mean there is no hazard, so make yourself smart," St. Armand said. "Educate yourself. Make sure you have a buddy with you when you swim, and look out for each other."