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Marines Report From The Field

CAB Marines make a splash

Story by Lance Cpl. Brandon R. Holgersen

Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler

CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan — (Aug. 27, 2004) -- An assault amphibian vehicle travels 500 meters off the coast of a beach. It stops, and suddenly, seven Marines jump into the water one by one, wearing camouflage uniforms and life jackets.

This was the scene when 70 Marines with Amphibious Assault Company, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, conducted their surf qualification at Splash Beach here Aug. 27.

The qualification is necessary to ensure Marines are capable of getting back to shore in the event that they have to abandon their AAV.

The Marines each had a buddy they swam with in case one of them encountered trouble, according to Cpl. Zachary Haggerty, an AAV crewman.

“They were paired up by swim levels, so if someone was a weaker swimmer, they had a strong swimmer as a buddy to help them out,” Haggerty said.

Marines went out in groups of seven or eight in an AAV. To qualify, the Marines had to disembark the AAV and swim back to shore, according to Haggerty. Marines could take their time swimming back because there was no time limit.

For some of the Marines, this was the first time participating in this type of qualification.

“It’s like jumping off the 10-foot tower in boot camp. You just have to take that leap of faith and remember what you’ve been taught,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Rhodes, supply chief. During the qualification, the ocean current pushed the Marines farther down the beach, causing them to finish in a different place than where they started.

“The current was drifting to the south side, so we were doing twice the amount of work as normal (to swim back),” said Gunnery Sgt. Mark J. Gonzales, the Amphibious Assault Company gunnery sergeant.

Some of the crewmembers found the swim challenging due to the strong current and distance from the drop-off point to shore.

“You’re swimming for a long time, and (because of the current) you’re staying in the same place,” said Cpl. Thomas E. Zender, an AAV crewman.

Corporal Desenganio Reynaldo, an AAV repairman, said even though the current was strong, the surf qualification was easier here than it was at other places he’s qualified.

“It’s a lot better here because the water is warmer, and the surf is better,” Reynaldo said. Overall, the Marines were very confident about being able to qualify; even those who haven’t done the qualification before, according to Rhodes.

“You just have to listen to your instructors … stay calm and bring it on in,” Rhodes said.