By Gail Parsons, 1st Inf. Div. PostMarch 22, 2019
About 20 children spent the mornings of their spring break getting ready for summer. Under the watchful eye of several lifeguards they learned about water safety at Long Fitness Center swimming pool.
Judy Gardner, assistant aquatics manager with the Directorate of Family and Moral, Welfare and Recreation, said the purpose of the week was to help children understand what they should do to stay safe in the water.
"Today's lesson was think so you don't sink," she said after the first class on March 11. "We were reinforcing the concept of learning how to float and staying calm so if you get afraid or start to panic when you're in the water you know what to do."
It was a lesson Aianah Millarez, 10, picked up on. She said she learned how important "thinking before acting" can be. But the part of the hour-long lesson she enjoyed was the Sharks and Minnows game.
"There's a shark in the middle and all the other people are the minnows and they are trying to get to the other side without the shark tagging them," she said explaining how to play the game.
She was there with her little sister Malayah, 6, and her mother Krysta, who had an important reason to sign the girls up.
"My husband (Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Millarez, 1st Heavy Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division) is currently deployed," she said. "I'm the only one who's going to be at the pool with them this summer. I want them to be extra comfortable in the water -- therefore, hopefully, making my job easier."
Lessons during the week included what to do if someone is unexpectedly pushed into the water or if someone gets too far from shore and tires out.
"We teach them that you float on your back and wait and call for help or rest until you can safely swim to the side," Gardner said.
They also learned to keep aware of their surroundings so they don't go to far from the supervised area and to always swim with a buddy.
"You never swim alone," Gardner said.
The course included information from the Longfellow's Whale Tales curriculum from the American Red Cross Water Safety Program and will be repeated in June.
"We are going into the summer season and just want to reinforce staying safe around water," she said.
Which is exactly why Warrant Officer 1 Rafael Morales, 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, brought his children Julio and Sebastian.
He said neither of the boys, ages 9 and 11, are strong swimmers. They can float around a bit, but might not be able to help themselves if they ran into trouble in the water.
"I want them to learn how to survive in the water and for them to know how to be safe in the water," he said. "It's a skill that you should have. You never know (what might happen) or when you can be in a position that you need to survive or you can maybe help somebody else."
The next swim camp is scheduled for the first week of June. Gardner said the spring camp filled up quickly and she expects the same for the next one. She recommends people who are interested in signing their children up to do so as soon as registration opens.