Stars and chemical lights provide the only illumination for a squad of scout swimmer students as they provide security for a mock raid force during Special Operations Training Group’s Scout Swimmer Course March 29 at Kin Blue. The chemical lights are only used for instructional purposes so the instructors can see the action. The students are staff members of SOTG.
loaked by night and veiled in silence, a squad of warriors moved undetected through Kin Bay. With deliberate actions, the squad promptly secured the beach before sending an “all clear” report back to a ship waiting 25 miles off the coastline.
The ship was imaginary. The cold waters, stealthy tactics and exhaustion were not. The warriors swam through cold waters till their bodies cramped and shivered as III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Special Operations Training Group conducted a Scout Swimmer Course March 20-April 5 at various Okinawan beaches.
The Marines and sailors learned the intricacies of movement without detection as the course’s curriculum spotlighted clandestine insertion.
“Clandestine insertion is usually used at night when helicopter or (Assault Amphibian Vehicle) insertion is impossible,” said Sgt. Joseph L. Mills, an amphibious raid instructor with SOTG. “It’s usually done on a secluded beach out of enemy sight.”
During the initial phases of the course, instructors gave classroom instructions covering such topics as hazardous marine life and equipment maintenance. After more than 10 hours of classroom instruction, the group moved to the Okinawan coastline.
As the course unfolded at a secluded beach near Kin Blue, the students found themselves in the water more often than not. On March 19, the students moved through water so calm it seemed to be made of glass. Their slow and methodical movements left ripples invisible to the naked eye in the water.
When conducting a clandestine insertion, a calm sea is a scout swimmer’s nemesis, Mills explained.
“In calm weather, you don’t have the sound of waves breaking to conceal your noise,” Mills said. “This is why we try to avoid urban coastlines in actual missions.”
Manmade structures usually stop waves in urban environments, Mills stated.
The group moved to an urban training environment during the seventh day of training at Kin Red Pier, explained Sgt. Bart P. Dellinger, the senior amphibious raid instructor with SOTG.
The students were subjected to 2,800 meter swims with backpacks in tow throughout the course.
“It messes with your head,” said Lance Cpl. Kenneth A. Belovarac, an assistant small craft raid instructor. “You keep kicking and it doesn’t seem like you have gotten anywhere.”
Once the team reaches the shore, they secure the area and send beach survey reports to the appropriate commanders. The commanders obtain detailed descriptions of what to expect on land in the swimmers’ reports.
This course has proven to be extremely demanding and has one of the highest attrition rates of any course in the U.S. military, explained Mills.
“We started with 17 students and we now have eight,” Mills said on the sixth day of the 13-day course. “The course is very physically demanding.”
According to Mills, a lot of casualties are caused by exhaustion and cold-related injuries.
The few amphibious warriors who endure the course become certified scout swimmers. The newly certified scout swimmers will have the ability and knowledge to help train units going through SOTG’s boat raid courses.