Army ROTC water training builds confidence

Kelly Mcgowan

A uniformed cadet handed her training rifle, a “rubber duck,” to the senior standing on the Beyer pool high-diving board and climbed the ladder.

She pulled her hat down to cover her eyes and took the gun back. The senior held a strap on her back and guided her with short steps as she inched toward the edge of the board, her stiff arms holding the rifle in front of her.

He signals. She jumps.

Dakota Farrer, senior in biology, plunged into the water Nov. 19 as part of Army ROTC’s combat water survival training lab.

“You have to really trust whoever’s up there to not just let you slip off and fall down,” Farrer said. “It’s all about trusting the people around you.”

Farrer said that the jump is “a little bit terrifying,” but that this is one of her favorite training exercises.

Lower-level ROTC cadets from Iowa State and Drake University completed five water exercises as part of the test, which, is a commissioning requirement. Senior cadets organize this lab every semester and oversee the underclassmen cadets.

The blinded jump off of the high dive is the “exclamation point” of the event, said Frederick Thompson, senior in criminal justice.

Cadets also did a five-minute water tread, a 10-minute swim, a 15-meter swim and an equipment ditch, an exercise in which they were pushed into the water with a training rifle and had to remove equipment and swim to the edge of the pool.

“It’s a test of your confidence and your mental ability to push through something that may seem scary on paper,” Thompson said. “Once you jump in the water and tell yourself mentally that you can do it, it’s a lot easier than you think it is.”

Lt. Col. Richard Smith said these activities are designed to exercise confidence.

“The army says our cadets have to thrive under pressure,” Smith said.

Some of the students found the high dive to be the scariest part of the training, while other students who couldn’t swim thought the distance swim was more difficult.

Cadet Koby Wortman, senior in linguistics, ran the event and said there will be restructuring and possibly harder exercises to teach confidence in more stressful situations next semester. He said he will get input from other leaders and gauge the swimming level of the cadets to inform changes.

“I want it to be more focused on a fear-based testing,” Wortman said.

Future trainings may be shaped by activities based on some students’ global experiences.

Nick Smith, senior in mechanical engineering, participated in the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program in Croatia last summer with Croatian Special Forces and cadets from around the world.

Smith trained in the Adriatic Sea for four to five hours every day for 10 days out of the three-week program. Those activities could impact combat water survival trainings in future semesters.

Only junior cadets are required to pass the water lab, as it is a prerequisite for the Leadership Development Assessment Course, a 29-day course taken between junior and senior year to test a cadet’s ability to lead, according to a previous Iowa State Daily article.

Students who wish to join the Army will have to go through some form of water training in their ROTC career, Wortman said.