The Marine Corps has traditionally been the first fighting force to enter hostile areas in times of war. Marines led General Douglas McArthur’s campaign to recapture the Philippines in World War II, made up the bulk of the troop strength in Vietnam and continue to represent the U.S. in military and peaceful engagements around the globe.
When the Marines aren’t doing all of that, they let loose with tentpole events like July 29’s “Pool Bash,” the Marines’ website reported. Hosted at Marine Corps Base Quantico’s 50-meter pool located just outside of Washington, D.C., the soldiers of the Headquarters and Service Battalion were treated to a no-expense-spared day of fun in the sun and water, though they mixed in some physical competitions for good measure.
The pool, the crowd, the Marines
Military life is often very stressful and highly regimented, and soldiers rarely have the opportunity to blow off some steam in between daily duties. Every quarter, the 200 Marines stationed at Quantico are treated to a low-key recreational day that’s no more extravagant than a dozen pizzas and a few hours of video games.
However, Sgt. Jhon Zuluaga, Single Marine Program president for the base, spoke with his commanding officer, Col. Robin Gallant, after the spring iteration of the event about how the soldiers might appreciate something a little more up-tempo for the summer fling.
“So I brought up the idea of having a big pool party and she said, ‘Alright, you got it,'” Zuluaga told the Marines’ website. “It’s the summertime, it’s hot and this is a way to get Marines away from the barracks to enjoy something different.”
The party was moved to Quantico’s brand new 50-meter outdoor pool, which opened Memorial Day weekend 2014. A fully-functioning commercial pool, the facility boasts specialized pool management solutions to make it easier for service members and their families to enjoy its amenities. Soldiers are charged a varying fee based on their rank to use the pool, and the previous electronic system increased wait times for patrons to around 15 minutes. With a new touch-screen interface, soldiers now go from paying their fee to diving into the pool in seconds.
“We’re hoping to make everything easier for the patrons, as far as the checking in-process, forms and overall experience,” said Lindsay Leach, aquatics director at the Quantico pool. “Our goal is to boost participation by making things as simple and fun as possible.”
Almost 200 Marines attended the Pool Bash, which also featured free food, a diving contest, a dunk tank, water polo games and a special competition the Marines referred to as the “frozen T-shirt contest.” Teams were given a shirt that had been frozen in a solid chunk of ice and raced to be the first to defrost and wear the garment. After chipping away at the ice for minutes and submerging it in the water, Lance Cpl. Alexander Vasquez was the first to don the icy gear.
Gallant was pleased with the day’s events and mentioned that this may not be the last Pool Bash Quantico’s Marines see.
“I think it’s a great idea and we’ll probably do it again next summer,” Gallant said. “If the Marines want it, the Marines will get it.”
Until the next party, the pool at Quantico reverts to a commercial facility the Marines often use for aquatic training. While some specializations focus exclusively on water-based maneuvers and athleticism, all Marines must exhibit basic proficiency in the water. In 2011, the Marine Corps changed its swimming qualification requirements to include a more rigorous testing process.
Every two years, Marines must demonstrate several swimming skills. While in uniform and wearing a full load of gear, Marines must first shed their equipment while in the water in under 10 seconds. Next, swimmers jump off a raised platform to simulate a safe escape from a sinking ship. Marines then tread water for four minutes in full gear and without support from the side of the pool or other structures. The test culminates with a 25-meter swim under the weight of heavy equipment.
If a Marine passes this test, he is granted a level four qualification – the lowest rank in the system.