Water training provides confidence, lessens Soldiers’ fear of swimming

By Catrina FrancisJuly 23, 2021

1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Soldier uses his ACU’s a flotation device during water skills survival training. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of HHC, USAG) VIEW ORIGINAL
Holding wall
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – HHC, USAG Soldiers hold onto the wall at the pool while conducting water survival skills training. The training was done so Soldiers had confidence in the water by using their ACU’s as a flotation device. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of HHC, USAG) VIEW ORIGINAL
Water PT
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – HHC, USAG Soldiers prepare to conduct water physical training during their water survival skills training at the pool. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of HHC, USAG) VIEW ORIGINAL

When many think of water training, the Navy comes to mind because the Army and Marines are mostly on land and the Air Force is in the air. However, water skills survival training provides training that Soldiers would not normally receive.

First Sgt. Dustin Hall, the first sergeant for Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison, the training is also done to ensure Soldiers attain confidence.

“Doing water survival training for most Soldiers there is a little fear and apprehension (because) we are not used to the water, we are not raised in the Navy,” explained Hall. “When we tell Soldiers we are going to conduct water survival skills training, inevitably what you get is shock and questions. (Some will say), ‘hey first sergeant, I’m not so comfortable in the water, (or) ‘hey, we are the Army.”

Hall pointed out that those concerns make a lot of sense but he said, it’s telling that there is a branch in the military that’s apprehensive and a little scared of the water. He added that this type of training helps build confidence.

“(This training) helps Soldiers face their fear,” he said. “Anytime we can have Soldiers do training, we have a more unified force. Everything in basic training, for example, proves to us if you go through something tough together, you become a team. When Soldiers do this water training, they go through something tough together and it certainly builds comradery in our unit.

“Toward the end of the training, you can see there is more relief on everyone’s face and everybody is having a fun time and enjoying it. They are no longer afraid of it.”

When the unit conducted water training again Tuesday, Hall said he didn’t receive the same questions from Soldiers that he received the first time the unit had the training. In fact, he said the Soldiers were able to face and overcome their fear of the water. The training helped with those who were apprehensive about participating in water survival skills training.

One of the ways Hall used in helping Soldiers believe the training could save their lives is when he had them take off their ACU trousers, tie the legs tight with the strings at the end and throw it over their head. After the trousers are filled with air, Soldiers then put them on their neck and started to float.

“You can literally lay there for hours and float,” Hall said. “One of the first exercises that we did was the trouser float and every Soldier had to go down to the deep end and swim a lap and come back. By that point, you saw confidence start to increase. We (started) in the shallow end, and that’s where they are filling their pants with water and get the opportunity to test it. You can tell the ones (who are apprehensive because) they will be standing close to the wall. Eventually you will see them wading out in the middle and say, ‘oh yeah, this really works, I’m literally floating here.’ You let them do that for a good 10 or 15 minutes (because it) shows them this technique works over time.”

Hall said this kind of training is done in the crawl, walk, run phase that’s done similar to basic training when Soldiers low crawl while live ammunition is being shot over their heads.

“In the same way you see other people go over that wall, the water survival skills training works the same way,” said Hall. “Once they see their team members take that swim off in the deep end, they are little more relaxed to do it.”

Hall added that there are also safety measures in place. While the unit was training, there were three lifeguards on duty and they were there for the duration of the training.

Survival training wasn’t the only type of training that was being done in the pool. The unit also used underwater weights, ran in place and conducted calisthenics. Hall said doing those things also build confidence.

“That in itself helps build some confidence in the water (and provides) some level of comfort,” he said. “(Soldiers) go into the water survival skills in the shallow end and progress it to the deep end and before you know it, all of the Soldiers are doing well.”

Hall pointed out that while in the realm of COVID, water physical training is actually safe. He that the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there isn’t any evidence that COVID can be spread through swimming pools.

“A lot of the chlorine that’s in the pools make it pretty safe,” Hall said. “If other units are looking for something to do and create a COVID-safe environment, pools are pretty safe.”