FORT DRUM, N.Y. - Soldiers in 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, learned that staying alive in combat not only requires them to perfect their skills on land, but in the water as well, during water survival training April 28 at Magrath Gym.

Water survival training consisted of three events Soldiers were required to complete: a 15-meter swim, 3-meter dive, and the "don and ditch."

"Swimming is an essential skill for Soldiers, especially in Afghanistan, where we have lost Soldiers to drowning incidents," said Staff Sgt. David Fisher, Sniper Section leader, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3-71 Cavalry.

For the first event, Soldiers were required to swim 15 meters in their Army Combat Uniform while carrying an M-16 rifle.

"The importance of the 15-meter swim is to build confidence in a Soldier's swimming ability, so he knows he can swim if he falls in a river," Fisher said.

Even for an experienced swimmer, trying to swim in ACUs while carrying a weapon can be extremely challenging. With this training, Soldiers will be prepared for a real-life water survival situation.

"The distance swim was the most difficult," said Pfc. Liam Keefe, a member of Sniper Section, HHT, 3-71 Cavalry. "I've never done anything like (that). It's a little bit of an eye-opener just to see the weight difference."

After completing the 15-meter swim, Soldiers were required to jump off the three-meter diving board in ACUs with an M-16 rifle. Before they could jump off the diving board, they were blindfolded and spun around to give them a disoriented feeling.

"All it does is simulate you being dazed, like you were in a (vehicle) rollover," Fisher said.
Soldiers learned how to resurface and stay above the water even when they were dazed.

"If they did fall in the water, this training would definitely help because they would have the on-the-job training to deal with this situation," said Sgt. Joshua Renken, Sniper Section team leader, HHT, 3-71 Cavalry.

To complete the training, Soldiers were required to "don and ditch." Soldiers jumped into the deepest part of the pool in their full uniform with an M-16 and load-bearing vest, commonly worn in combat. Soldiers had to remove the gear before they swam to the surface.

"'Don and ditch' is to teach Soldiers to get rid of their gear so they don't have as much weight when they swim to the top," Renken said.

This event provides vital training for Soldiers by putting them in a realistic simulation of being under water with the extra weight of the gear worn in combat situations.

"You're tangled in 550 cord, trying to (get your) gear off," said Renken, describing the difficulty of the event. "Soldiers are doing much better than I thought they would."

To maximize their ability to survive in water, Soldiers who had difficulty completing the tasks received additional training to ensure their safety in extreme situations.