FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- As the swim season gets closer and more people take to the waterways, lifeguards can be the lifeline people need, and Fort Rucker offers courses to get people on track to saving lives when it comes to aquatic activities.

The Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation sports, fitness and aquatics branch offers lifeguard certification courses throughout the summer that provide unique opportunities for those looking for summer employment, according to Rob Koren, DFMWR aquatics manager.

All lifeguard candidates must be at least 15 years of age or old, and the courses are offered in two types: a first-time certification course and full lifeguard training course.

For the full lifeguard training course the cost is $125 for military and DOD ID card holders, and $150 for the general public. For re-certification courses, the cost is $75 for all participants.

Before candidates can complete the course, they must be able to pass a prerequisite skills challenge on the first day of the course, which includes: swimming 550-meters continuously using the breaststroke or front crawl; tread water for two minutes using no hands; swim 20-meters, surface dive to 10 feet, retrieve a 10-pound brick and swim back to a starting point; and swim five yards underwater and retrieve three diving rings placed five yards apart, resurface, then swim another five yards.

These prerequisites are in place to make sure that lifeguards are able to perform their duties in potentially life-threatening situations, said Koren.

"The safety of our patrons and employees alike is Fort Rucker Aquatics' No. 1 priority," he said. "It is imperative that lifeguards receive the proper training and are held accountable to that training once certified.

"All aquatics staff must be certified in regular lifeguarding, waterfront lifeguarding and waterpark lifeguarding," he continued. "They also require training for CPR and AED for professional rescuers, first aid and preventing disease transmission: bloodborne pathogens."

Additionally, Fort Rucker aquatics staff are also mandated to attend four hours of mandatory in-service training each month to keep skills and knowledge sharp for when they are needed the most.

Once fully trained, lifeguards are expected not only to provide a sense of security and employ life-saving techniques if necessary, but must also conduct other duties, including facility safety inspections, water chemistry readings, light pool circulation system maintenance and more.

Lifeguard courses will be held on the following dates and times.

• May 6-7, recertification course from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• May 12-14, 20 and 21, full course from 4-7 p.m. on Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
• June 5-9, full course from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays-Fridays

Once they pass the course and earn certification, newly certified lifeguards have the opportunity to apply at any aquatic facility that accepts American Red Cross certifications, said Koren.

"Here at Fort Rucker Aquatics, we jump to hire the lifeguards we train because we know they were trained the proper way and already have an insight as to how we run our operations," he said. "We strongly encourage all lifeguard course candidates to apply with Fort Rucker aquatics after the completion of their training course."

Although lifeguards are on duty to ensure the safety of those swimming in the waters on Fort Rucker, safety is also the responsibility of patrons, said Koren.

"Never swim alone -- always swim with a partner or in a supervised area, if possible," he said. "This way, in the event that something was to happen, someone is there who can either render care or get someone who can."

People should also stay hydrated and apply sunscreen regularly to avoid sunburns and sun poisoning, he said.

"Parents, please watch your children," said the aquatics manager. "Lifeguards are present at most aquatics venues to ensure patrons safety and wellbeing. With that being said, please do not mistake the lifeguards on duty for a temporary babysitter.

"The lifeguards are not only responsible for your children, but for all others, as well," he said. "Parents should be the first line of defense when it comes to their children and water safety."