Staying afloat: ‘Tropic Lightning’ swims its way to lifeguard certification

| November 5, 2010 | 0 Comments

Staff Sgt. Amber Robinson
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division

Spc. Joseph Spiggle, 3rd Bn., 25th Combat Avn. Regt., 25th CAB, 25th ID, rescues a swimmer who is playing the part of an accident victim with a suspected spinal injury. (Courtesy of 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division)SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Sixteen 25th Infantry Division Soldiers completed a two-week lifeguard certification course at Richardson Pool, here, Oct. 29. 

Soldiers strengthened swimming skills and learned water rescue methods, cardiovascular pulmonary resuscitation and basic first aid. 

Candidates first took a swim test to assess their swimming skill levels. Out of the 33 swimmers who entered the class, 16 remained throughout the entire course and graduated. 

“We usually lose about half the original class every time,” said Domingo Arroyo, main instructor for the course. “A lot of Soldiers think, if they are strong, then, they can make it in this course; but it’s about being strong and proficient in the water. 

“The people who make it in this course usually love and are comfortable in the water,” he continued. “It takes a special type of person to be a lifeguard.”

Each training day usually starts with a warm-up swim, consisting of 300 or more meters of several different strokes. The course then moves into swimming drills, followed by rescue drills. 

Water rescue drills include scenarios in which a victim is either on the surface of the pool or submerged up to 15 feet, responsive or unresponsive, or injured with a head, neck or back injury. “Victims” are other class participants who simulate various levels of drowning and injury. 

“It was a challenge to have to rescue someone who is about twice my weight, off the bottom of the pool,” said Spc. Joseph Spiggle, a CH47 Chinook crew chief with 3rd Battalion, 25th Combat Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade,  25th Infantry Division, who has a history of competitive swimming, coaching and lifeguarding. “It was a much more intense course than what I have taken in the past as a civilian. I didn’t think it would be this challenging, so it surprised me, but in a good way.”

Sgt. Randy Ojeda, 3rd Bn., 25th Combat Avn. Regt., 25th CAB, 25th ID, scans his sector of water. 
(Courtesy of 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division)“You learn what your limits are and how you can push past them,” said Sgt. Randy Ojeda, 3rd Bn., 25th Combat Avn. Regt., 25th CAB. “You learn to hold your breath longer, to go and get submerged victims. You learn how to swim with added weight. 

“After the first day, I told myself this was going to be tough, and I’d have to stay focused and not let my guard down,” Ojeda added.

Candidates learned to navigate the challenges of water rescue and first aid, and they learned lifeguarding is a job requiring diplomacy.

“Lifeguarding is all about multitasking,” Spiggle said. “You have to remain alert and (be) ready to save someone’s life, but then you may also need to be ready to dissolve an argument or calm an upset patron.”

As part of graduation requirements, candidates took a written and a skills exam. They were tested on CPR and different types of rescues, including a complex rescue that simulated a spinal injury in deep water. Graduates then completed 16 hours of volunteer time at Richardson Pool to receive certification cards. 

“Soldiers learn to stay calm and make solid decisions based on their training,” Arroyo said. “What they definitely get is the confidence … to keep people safe in the water.” 

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