A Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival
(MCIWS) is the primary source of water survival instruction in the United
States Marine Corps. A MCIWS qualifies, re-qualifies, and upgrades Marines in
Marine Corps Water Survival Training (MCWST) levels. They are responsible for
ensuring compliance with Marine Corps orders, directives, and training
standards that govern MCWST. A Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival and an
Instructor Trainer of Water Survival are only different in that the latter is a
billeted position. They do not differ in training nor is one superior to the
other. The MCIWS is certified by the Marine Corps to teach beginner,
intermediate, and advanced water survival skills, and may serve as the subject
matter expert, coordinator, planner, and safety swimmer for water survival and
other various aquatic training events. In addition to Marine Corps
certifications, an MCIWS also holds American Red Cross Lifeguarding, First Aid,
and CPR for the Professional Rescuer certifications.
Course and Training
A MCIWS course is
usually three calendar weeks long, with training taking place on work days, and
remediation conducted as necessary. In the past, the course used to yield
attrition rates of up to 60 or even 70 percent, due to high physical and skills
performance demands. Students are conditioned daily in lap swim sessions, and
their endurance and technique are tested in rescue practice training blocks
that add combat uniform and gear in increments each time. Confidence and a calm
mindset are consistently put to the test with end-of-day water aerobics
sessions that mix aerobic and anaerobic speed, endurance, and technique-based
exercises. Every training event is designed to enhance proficiency in multiple
Academics is just as
important as performance, as an MCIWS must be able to teach survival skills
with precision, with a full understanding of characteristics of survival
techniques, aquatic environments, physics, physiology, and even psychology. A
MCIWS is trained to recognize fear of water, and based on observation, apply
teaching methods that develop student confidence and trust. Building on these
basics, an MCIWS uses the "crawl, walk, run" principle by encouraging
a student to perform increasingly challenging water survival skills. A MCIWS'
teaching skills are evaluated multiple times during a course, with unforgiving
emphasis on safety. Observing students, managing the classroom, and enforcing
safety regulations are all evaluated, and failure to cover even a small safety
point may cause the MCIWS student to fail instruction evaluation. In addition,
all students that go through the training at the Water Survival School of
Excellence, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina will also receive training and receive
certification in Helicopterr Underwater Escape Training.
In the operating
forces, an MCIWS may advise a unit commander in aquatic training and safety
matters, and may be the primary water safety for aquatic training.
Helo-casting, surf qualification, and open water swims often require an MCIWS.
Currently, an MCIWS is an additional or secondary, instructor Military
Occupational Specialty (0918, formerly 8563), focused mainly on training, with
no Table of Organization (TO) requirements for operating forces.
Future of MCIWS
With the current
revision of the MCWST program, the job and name of an MCIWS are undergoing
significant changes, but the mission remains essentially the same: train
Marines in water survival.