ROTC holds water survival tests

SARAH SCHNEIDER • DAILY EGYPTIAN

SARAH SCHNEIDER • DAILY EGYPTIAN

By Luke Nozicka

Some may say jumping off an almost 33 foot high platform is intimidating, but doing it blindfolded while holding a gun is just another average day for an ROTC cadet.

The university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, commonly know as the ROTC, underwent the Combat Water Survival Test Thursday at the Edward J. Shea Natorium.

“All soldiers and officers must pass the swimming test,” Lt. Col. Jon Sowards said. “This is just part of the normal training regimen we do.”

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Sowards said the first part of the swimming test was two weeks ago. Cadets had to swim in a t-shirt and shorts for 10 continuous minutes and show they could tread water for five.

“Once they pass that part they move on to the second part which is the Combat Water Survival Test,” he said. ” There are basically four different things they do in the Water Survival Test.”

The first portion of the test is a basic swimming assessment. Cadets swim a minimum of 25 meters wearing the Army combat uniform while carrying a rubber rifle above water.

The rifle weighs about seven pounds and was used for three of the four events.

“It’s heavy enough to cause you some mental stress trying to keep it up out of the water,” Sowards said. “But it’s really not that bad.”

After the swimming portion, cadets underwent the Submerged Equipment Removal Test. The test required cadets to take off all their gear while underwater.

The third portion of the test is a diving test, in which all cadets jump off the 10-meter diving board holding the dummy gun while blindfolded.

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“It’s a confidence drill is what it is,” Sowards said. “When they do it and they come up they’re incredibly confident at that point.”

Alex Golman, a freshman cadet studying architecture from Chicago, said if a cadet dropped his or her rifle, they would have to retrieve it from the bottom of the pool and attempt the jump again.

Hubert Widener, an ROTC squad leader and a senior studying aviation technology from Zero Beach, Fla., said the test is meant to simulate landing in water at nighttime.

“They’re all simulations for usually if you’re in a combat situation if you fall either in a ditch or you’re in a vehicle and you end up in water,” Widener said. “This is usually done twice a year, usually at the beginning of each semester.”

Sowards said the CWST is a requirement for all cadets to pass in order to graduate from the program.

Mike and Anita Elmore attended at the event to swear in their son Matthew Elmore, a junior studying English from Chicago. Military is a tradition in the Elmore family. Mike is a sergeant major stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky., and their oldest son is stationed in the Air Force in South Korea.

“We’re going to go up to the top of the platform and swear him in and after that I’ll push him out into the water,” Mike Elmore said. “It’ll be a good thing. I don’t think too many parents get to do that.”

Mike said unexpectedly pushing his son off the high dive was a fun way to celebrate the occasion.

Swimming and diving Coach Rick Walker said he supports the ROTC coming to use the pool even if it sometimes conflicts with swim practice.

“I am a huge fan of the military,” he said. “And so anything we can do to help them and assist them in their training, we’re on board.”

Widener said around a quarter of cadets who go through the water-training struggle to finish. Walker said the swim team offers to help train cadets who struggle in the water.

Troy Vaughn, director of recreational sports and services, said the Recreation Center works with the swim team and ROTC to reserve the pool. He said their training is well supervised and safe.

“You know, honestly it scares me to death thinking I’m going to jump into the water full pack, full gear and the whole bit,” he said. “But I’ve never seen an issue with it.”

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