Infantry: Water Sports



March 15, 2008: Iraq is a wet place, at least where most of the people live, and where a lot of the fighting takes place. As a result, it's fairly common for U.S. troops to find themselves in water over their heads. An automobile accident is the usual culprit, although it has happened in combat, especially at night. About three dozen soldiers and marines have died that way, and a simple and quick training exercise was developed to reduce these casualties.


Basically, the training consists of lecturing troops on what to do (shed as much gear as you can quickly and paddle to safety). Then the troops are taken to a base swimming pool, in full battle gear, and, with lifeguards standing by, jump into the deep end of the pool. Most are able to shed gear and paddle to safety. Those who don't, are hauled out, and get to try again later. The troops learn several important things from all this. Most find that they can handle a dunking, and how effectively. Nothing like some practical experience. Also important is that troops discover which of their buddies have problems with the water thing. Thus if they ever find themselves in the water, they know who may need help.


Some equipment was redesigned to deal with the drowning risk. For example, the new, quick release protective (armor) vest is a big help, because that gets rid of most of the weight a soldier is carrying.