Water survival test is “sink or swim” for Army ROTC

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    TCU Army ROTC cadets were at the University Recreation Center in the early morning hours of Feb. 27 and 28, taking over the diving well for their combat water survival test (CWST).

    On both days, cadets arrived before 6 a.m. for the assessment, which consisted of three events designed to gauge their ability to survive in water. Cadets had to complete each component while dressed in full uniform and holding a mock rifle.

    Several cadets said the high jump was the most nerve-wracking element.

    “Definitely the scariest is the high dive,” junior Hannah Rector said. “You get up there and you freeze; but you just have to go.”

    Cadets waited in a long line before climbing up to the high diving platform and pulling a ski cap down over their eyes. Sgt. 1st Class Johnny Thompson then spun them around once and led them to the edge of the platform.

    Cadets had to jump off the platform with their rifle held out in front of them. After making their entry into the water, they had to swim back to the edge of the pool without assistance.

    “It doesn’t matter how many times you do it,” junior John Maher said. “When you’re jumping off the high dive, it’s unnerving. With that blindfold on, the anticipation will drive you nuts.”

    However, Rector and a few other cadets said the most challenging event was the equipment drop. During that test, cadets jumped into the pool wearing a combat vest and holding a rifle, and had to get rid of their equipment before resurfacing.

    This meant that cadets actually had to swim deeper and keep themselves underwater longer as they attempted to get out of their gear. Standing in line, one cadet jokingly said it was the “worst day ever.”

    “The hardest event to me is actually the equipment drop, where you have to fall into the water and take the equipment off,” junior cadet Jarrod McClendon said, “because you actually have to swim down. The hard part of course is the [drag caused by the] uniform in that case.”

    The third component of the test was a 15-meter swim. Cadets were thrown into the water and required to swim the full length of the pool. Cadets requested permission to enter the pool from the senior cadets, who granted the request by pushing them backwards into the water.

    Cadets swam the length of the pool using whatever stroke was most comfortable for them. If they touched the wall or did not make it all the way, they failed that element of the test and had to get back in line and try again.

    Thompson said the CWST really is a “sink or swim” situation for the cadets. He said it allows the cadre to evaluate which cadets needs additional help as swimmers. Sometimes the program will even pay for cadets to take swimming lessons, he said.

    Rector said completing each of the test’s three elements is a matter of being able to handle a situation without panicking.

    “The key is just to be calm and just do it,” Rector said. “And don’t think about it.”