Cadet Zach Hedval of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln climbs the ladder to the high dive, dripping wet after completing a 15-meter swim. This isn’t a multi-event aquatics competition, but Combat Water Survival Training at the Leader’s Training Course.
He walks to the edge of the diving board with a replica M16 in hand and the lifeguard pulls a blindfold over his eyes. Now it’s time to jump.
Cadet Hedval steps forward and jumps from the high dive. Seconds later he emerges from the water, the blindfold floating beside him and his weapon in hand. He’s completed the “Three-meter Unexpected Entry” test at the Gammon Field House pool at Fort Knox.
Cadets in the 2nd regiment of the Leader’s Training Course completed this training on Monday and Tuesday. During the training, Cadets must complete a 15-meter swim with a replica M16, jump from the diving board blindfolded with the weapon, and jump into the pool and remove their vest and weapon while underwater.
After completing each of these tasks, Cadets must complete a Diagnostic Swim Test that entails a 10-minute continuous swim and treading water for five minutes.
Hedval said for him the Unexpected Entry was the more challenging of the three parts of training. “It wasn’t difficult, just the more challenging. I had to compose myself,” Hedval said.
Specialist Andre Rodriguez of Fort Bliss, Texas said the 15-meter swim is the event Cadets usually struggle with the most. Cadets that cannot complete the 15-meter swim on their first attempt are put into remedial training.
“We give them remedial training and teach them proper fundamentals in order to swim with their gear,” Rodriguez said. Following the remedial swimming, Cadets can attempt the swim again.
Cadet Jeremiah Worker from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque completed each part of the training on his first attempt. Worker said he thought the 15-meter swim was the most difficult.
“That part is all about the mental game because you haven’t been in the water with equipment before,” Worker said.
Although several Cadets struggled with the 15-meter swim, the other parts of the training were no easy task. Surprisingly, Cadet Worker said he wasn’t nervous in the moments before jumping from the high dive.
“I felt a moment of peace,” Worker said. “If there’s something with heights I usually close my eyes anyways. Then when I hit the water I was in the moment.”