The swim assessment was led by Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival, Cpl. Matt Sprankle and Coast Guard Water Survival Master and Responder, Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Sliva, to determine the swimming ability of the COFUMACO who will be conducting small-boat operations training with service members from Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa in the following weeks.
“We wanted to make sure they had basic swimming knowledge,” said Sliva, a USCG mechanic technician with the team. “Once we swam them through a few tests and could see they had basic swim knowledge, we ran a 100-meter swim test and a two-minute drown-proof test.”
The purpose of the assessment was to instil confidence in the COFUMACO as well as a risk management measure to ensure everyone training on the boats has the skills to stay safe even in the case of a man going overboard or a boat capsizing.
“At the beginning of the assessment there were probably five strong swimmers out of the 20 we had. They swam through the tests with no problems. It was great to see,” said Sliva. “I think it was good for the guys who struggled to know that there are guys on their team who can swim and it helps build the team’s confidence.”
The COFUMACO would not be allowed to continue training with the American service members on the water in the following weeks if they did not pass the tests. The mandatory assessment is important for training in small-boat operations, as there a multitude of risks involved such as fast speeds and quick turns.
“By the end of the first day we still had five who could not pass,” said Sliva.
Although not every COFUMACO was a strong swimmer initially, no one was willing to give up. Sliva was amazed by their effort and determination. He remarked how much work they were put through and how they continued to want more.
“We got back in the pool with them the next morning, worked a little more and all passed,” said Sliva. “Everyone that we had go through the program passed.”
After seven iterations of small-boat operations between the U.S. and COFUMACO, this will be the final rotation. The U.S. Marines and coast guardsmen will now provide train-the-trainer instruction to hand-picked students from previous engagements to teach their own.
After completing the assessment, the service members of the partner nations have trust and confidence in each other’s abilities as they look forward to small-boat operation and infantry skill training in the following weeks.
SPMAGTF-CR-AF Det. A is based out of Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, where they stage and prepare for theater security cooperation missions into various countries in Africa. This specific iteration is manned by Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, permanently based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Coast Guardsmen from various stations across the United States.