Combat Water Survival

By definition, the Marine Corps is an amphibious assault force. Therefore all Marine recruits are required to know how to survive in the water.

By definition, the Marine Corps is an amphibious assault force. Therefore all Marine recruits are required to know how to survive in the water.

Recruits face many challenges during their 13 weeks on the recruit depot, but swim week is especially challenging for recruits who don't know how to swim.

Training in combat water survival develops a recruit's confidence in the water.

Recruits receive basic water survival training at the indoor pool, which is safely conducted by specially-trained instructors.

A new qualification system for combat water survival was implemented on November 10, 2010, that coincides with new combat and battlefield needs.

The new system will train recruits to be able to survive in the water while wearing all of their combat gear (including a rifle, helmet, flak jacket and pack), whereas the old system only required recruits to train in their camouflage utility uniform.

Instead of the previous six qualification levels, there are now three: basic, intermediate and advanced. All recruits must now be qualified at the basic level, which teaches full combat gear shedding, instead of achieving Combat Water Survival-4 (CWS-4), which was the minimum requirement of the old water survival program. However, recruits may choose to progress beyond the basic level.

Above information found on the Parris Island web site, July 2009 and in a November 2010 USMC article.

Click here to read the article about the new qualification system.

Read an article about Combat Water Survival Training from the May 9, 2008 issue of Chevron. Click here for PDF.

Combat Water Survival

Recruits shed excess gear underwater during water survival training December 15, 2014, on Parris Island, S.C.
—USMC photo by Corporal Jennifer Schubert.


Watch the Marine Corps recruiting video above for a true story of a Marine Drill Instructor who faced his greatest challenge at the pool when he was in boot camp.

Swimming in boot camp isn't the same as it is in the civilian world...not at all. There are many differences, but the most obvious visual difference is the clothing recruits wear. They go into the pool in their camouflage utility uniform instead of in swimming suits, and if they progress through higher levels of qualifications, they even swim in full combat gear.

The other main difference from swimming in the civilian world is that recruits learn "Combat Water Survival". That is not the same as learning a variety of strokes or learning how to dive. Recruits learn how to survive in the water... something every Marine must know how to do.

  —Marine Mom and Marine Parents Volunteer, 2009
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