MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
According to http://www.cdc.gov, drowning ranks as the fifth leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States. An average of 10 people die from unintentional drowning each day in the U.S. and of these people, at least two are children ages 14 or younger.
With the temperature raising in Japan, Marines and their families aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, may find themselves looking to cool down around water; whether aboard station or at various locations near the air station.
Staff Sgt. Brian A. Smith, a Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival, with credentials including MCIWS instructor, avid technical scuba diver, spear fisherman, free diver and a certified lifeguard since he was 12-years-old, stresses the importance of using a buddy system.
“I have been around water my whole life and still do not do any aquatic activity alone,” said Smith. “When you least expect it is when something bad is going to happen. The whole buddy system the Marine Corps makes you do is actually a good thing, and an infant child in floatation gear is not a good liberty buddy.”
Smith said the reason water safety is important is because too many people push their own limits which places them in a situation they are unable to escape.
According to Smith, people find themselves in rip tides often due to lack of observation of conditions. If a person enters a situation where they are trying to swim back to shore and do not seem to be moving, the proper procedure is to swim parallel to the shore until they are out of the current. If that is not working, the person needs to call for help.
“The inability to recognize dangerous situations or your limitations can put you in not just one, but many dangerous situations at the same time,” said Smith. “For Japan, we don’t have to worry about surf conditions because of our location locally, but what we do have is currents, tides and aquatic life; aquatic life being the number one threat and hazard.”
Smith said some of the venomous aquatic life near the station includes: Stonefish, stingrays and jelly fish.
With aquatic life taking its own path and moving freely in the water, they may be hard to avoid, but some things, according to Smith, can be avoided by using common sense.
“Avoid jumping off cliffs, bridges, in water of unknown depth with obstacles underneath and rivers,” said Smith. “When you’re swimming in a river, be aware of the current. If you hear a siren, get out because that means a dam is about to open; which happens in the Nishiki River.”
Smith said he takes water safety very seriously because he cares about the safety and well-being of Marines.
“Water safety is important to me because it’s less names I have to read in the obituaries about drowning victims,” said Smith. “It’s less body recoveries and less mishaps dealing with the aquatic environment. It doesn’t only harm morale and welfare of the unit itself, but also harms the manpower. We lose too many Marines and man hours due to after hours and liberty mishaps. It’s not worth it. If you have to ask yourself, ‘is this something smart?’ Just avoid it.”
Stephanie Brown, the aquatics manager of Marine Corps Community Services aboard station, said if a person is in trouble, do not go rescue them unless you are properly trained because that potentially puts two people in danger.
“The best thing to do, that we say, is ‘reach, throw, row or go,’” said Brown. “Try to reach them with a stick or anything else that can extend your reach. If you can’t reach them with anything, try to throw something to them that floats. If there is a boat or something close to you that you can get into and row to them, do that. Or, if you are properly trained, swim out and rescue them.”
According to Smith, water safety not only applies to recreational activities but, as Marines, relates to our ability to be combat ready as an amphibious fighting force.
For more information about swimming safety courses, contact Brown via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, 253-4966, or from a cellphone at 090-6512-6085.