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Marine Patrol Undergoes Water Survival Training

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Marine Patrol Officers participate in Officer Water Survival Training held recently at the Alfond Center in Waterville

Working on the water can involve serious occupational hazards, not the least of which is the water itself. That’s why Maine Marine Patrol officers recently spent two days in the pool working on skills designed to keep them safe and healthy should they go in the drink.

The Officer Water Survival (OWS) course is an intensive two-day training program developed by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) that involves a variety of skills tests designed to build comfort and confidence in the water.

“It is critical that Marine Patrol Officers take this course to supplement the training that we already have,” said Marine Patrol Lieutenant Marlowe Sonksen. “Every day our officers are working on or around the water so this training provides them another unique skill set to protect their own lives and the lives of others.”

The training was conducted over two days in the pool at the Alfond Center in Waterville. “This training allows officers who work on the water to train in a controlled environment for the variety of situations they might encounter,” said Lieutenant Sonksen. “If it happens in the Gulf of Maine, regardless of the time of year, the water is cold and panic can set in without the proper training.”

The Officer Water Survival Course, as part of NASBLA’s Boat Operations and Training (BOAT) Program, was created to establish a national standard of training, qualification, and credentialing of marine law enforcement officers and emergency first responders. It is the purpose of this course to establish a basic understanding of officer survival on the water.

Wearing full uniforms, participants learned how to get quickly into a life jacket in the water, swam an obstacle course in gear that included a ballistic vest and simulated side arm, and learned to deal with a combatant while in the water. “This was both mentally and physically challenging, even for the strongest swimmers,” said Lieutenant Sonksen.

Participants were also required to demonstrate proficiency in the freestyle, breast stroke and side stroke as well as underwater swimming. In addition, officers swam 100 yards, treaded water for 10 minutes, and performed a head-first dive to retrieve an object on the floor of the pool.

“Successful completion of the proficiency test does not guarantee success in OWS training,” said Lieutenant Sonksen. “But it can be used to identify a person who requires basic training before progressing to the more skilled activities. Fortunately all of our officers demonstrated proficiency in the swim test as well as the more challenging skills tests.”

“This training can save lives,” said Lieutenant Sonksen. “And if we can keep our selves safe, we can keep others safe as well.”

The Marine Patrol is a Bureau of the Maine Department of Marine Resource that provides law enforcement, search and rescue, public health, maritime security, and public safety services on Maine’s coastal and tidal waters. More information about the Maine Marine Patrol can be found at http://www.maine.gov/dmr/bmp/homepage.html.