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Swim Qual


Swim qual is another one of those things that would be fun if it wasn’t in the Marine Corps. In theory, jumping into a pool with your closest friends and swimming around should be a grand old time.

However, trying to swim across a pool or tread water for 5 minutes in boots and cammies is a lot harder than it initially looks. These training events more often than not devolve into a panic-attack of splishing and splashing while a cold-hearted instructor watches you drown.

Me personally: I consider myself a relatively strong swimmer, and had no real problems passing swim qual “2” (the old system pre-2012) in boot camp. I occasionally surf as well, and I can tell you personally that water has a way of separating the real men from the boys. As big and tough as you may think you are, you’re no match for the domain of Poseidon. A big body of water will quickly humble you in seconds if you’re not ready for it.

It was interesting to see the wide range of proficiencies and deficiencies aboard the Recruit Depot. I was a weak body that couldn’t do 10 pull-ups (tall and lanky), but I could shoot Expert, never fell out of a single hump, and passed Swim Qual with flying colors. Conversely, my platoon guide could run a 300 PFT, but he unq’d on the range and nearly drowned in the pool.

The Marine Corps is truly a place of unmatched diversity. But never forget, Marines are first and foremost expected to be amphibious.

Infantry Marine turned Combat Artist turned animator turned bestselling author turned dad.

Inclemently Weathered

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  1. 1979. I did fine swimming, no problem on the humps. Pull-ups were my nemesis. Did 3 when I arrived, 13 at graduation. 20.5 minute 3 mile run, 80 situps. Sharpshooter. Missed expert by 1 point. Every year.

  2. Only thing worse was them throwing you those damn life rafts, and you *had* to take them and fail. Regardless of if you was fine or not, shit almost happened to me but some other recruit grabbed it.

  3. Way back in 1977 while going through swim qual at Parris Island I ended up spending more time in the water than needed.
    As we hit the pool, alphabetically, I jumped in and started to clear the area. Our platoon guide, I was Ho he was Hu, hit the water and never came up.
    Never bothered to let anyone know he couldn’t swim.

  4. As I always tell my kiddos, there are two things I learned in the Nav:

    1 The sea always wants to kill you.

    2 The ship always wants to burst into flames.

  5. Old joke from WWII: a sailor had been rotated stateside for some retraining. During a swimming exercise he was floundering around in the pool. The instructor yelled “Do you call that swimming?!?” The floundering sailor yelled back “I don’t know what it’s called but it kept me up when the Lexington went down.”

  6. I was a Marine of the 1990s/2000’s. Under the system of the time It took me a while to qualify WSQ- then I was FAP’ed out to a unit that required me to be a Combat Water Safety Swimmer (CWSS). Basically, the assistant to the yelling A hole MCIWS Instructor.

    It was two weeks of constant thrashing, underwater knot tying, underwater formations, holding bricks above your head and WATER AEROBICS! Had an instructor almost drown me when playing the victim that needed rescuing.

    Managed to pass it but immediately after that misery I didnt want to go anywhere near WATER or be in a pool! Took a few days on land to regain the motivation for that form of water torture!

    Funny thing is- that if you got out and wanted to be a lifeguard in the state of Hawaii they wouldn’t accept the USMC swim qual and you would have to start all over again!

  7. Way,way back in the day, 72′ me and my friend went up to Santa Barbara to check out the Hard Hat diving school. During the interview they found out we were Recon Marines and said they would waive any requirements except we would have to still take the swim test. They said it was x number of laps in a pool with fins and a mask. We laughed all the way back to Pendleton.

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