Fort Gordon Aquatics and the American Red Cross have partnered together to bring lifeguard classes to Fort Gordon’s indoor pool.
Whether you are a student looking for a job or someone interested in learning lifesaving skills, the course has potential to be valuable to just about anyone who has a desire to help others.
Participants must be at least 15 years old and able to pass three prerequisites, which are conducted in person at the Fort Gordon indoor pool. Those prerequisites are a 500-meter swim, treading water, and a “brick test.”
Candidates do not need to have a military ID card but will have to pass a background check at the Visitor’s Center in order to receive a pass.
“A lot of people think that you have to be affiliated with the military, but most of our job announcements are open to the public,” said Taylor Hayes, Aquatics manager.
Dispelling possible misconceptions, Hayes said candidates are not expected to possess anywhere near the swimming ability of a professional swimmer prior to taking the course.
“They don’t need to be a strong swimmer because that’s something that we can work on when they do the course,” Hayes explained. “My last course that I did in August, two of my participants were ‘OK swimmers,’ and they got better by the end of the course.”
Instruction is a combination of online learning and in-person at the indoor pool. Those who pass the course will receive certifications in American Red Cross Lifeguarding, CPR, First Aid, and automated external defibrillator (AED). They will also receive an adult CPR, infant CPR mask, and portable CPR mask.
Although successful completion of the course does not guarantee employment, it does give candidates an advantage.
“Most of the time, if you come do the course, even if you didn’t do the course with us and you apply for the position, we’re going to hire you if you have the certifications,” Hayes said.
Perhaps more importantly, the course provides lifelong, lifesaving skills.
“I started out in high school and I learned skills that a lot of other kids don’t know, and there have been times where I actually had to use my skills outside of work,” she said.
As someone who began her MWR career as a lifeguard and is now the manager of the Fort Gordon Aquatics, Hayes is proof there are opportunities to grow. Being a lifeguard has potential to open doors to other responsibilities and certifications.
“You can get certified to teach swim lessons, and that, to me, is the most rewarding – teaching people how to swim – especially active-duty,” Hayes said. “It’s free (for them), and to have [service members] coming in and learning a new skill, it’s awesome.”
Khiana Green, 20, took her first lifeguard course about four years ago in North Carolina, where she got her first job working as a lifeguard at Great Wolf Lodge. Green said she was happy to be offered a position at Fort Gordon, where she has been working for the past two years.
“I think the most rewarding aspect has been getting to know a lot of people here and also for them to become comfortable enough for them to know that I am here for them if there is anything major or even a minor question,” Green said.
For Keegan Murray, 18, taking the course wasn’t exactly an option but a decision that he is glad was made.
“My dad just told me that he signed me up for the lifeguarding class,” said the recent high school graduate.
Since completing the course two years ago, Murray said he has learned a lot he never really expected, including “how to diffuse situations.”
“The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is the people I’ve met,” Murray said. “It’s been a really good job.”
Hayes said that as Fort Gordon moves toward re-establishing normal hours for many of its facilities, she hopes to be able to do the same. But first she needs more lifeguards.
“We are so short-staffed we’re not going to be able to go back to our normal operating hours if we don’t get people in the facility,” Hayes said.
Currently, the indoor pool is open Monday through Friday, 5:30-11:30 a.m. Hayes hopes to expand the hours to include Saturday soon.
Cost for the weeklong course is $200. Payment is due once prerequisites have been passed. Financial assistance may be available for those in need.
The next course will be held Nov. 9-13, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
To register, call 706-791-3034, or visit the indoor pool located at 21608 Barnes Avenue.
“We’re always hoping for new people to come in and we would love for them to join this group here … We’re all there for each other at the end of the day, and I would love for other people to get that experience as well,” Green said.