Preparing Marines To Be Amphibious Warfighters
by U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Lance Kell
November 13, 2022
In the summer of 2006 in Evans, Georgia, a 5-year-old boy struggled to stay above water in the deep end of a pool and called out for help. That day the lifeguard on duty was Tyler Huggins. It was his first year as a lifeguard and one of the most pivotal moments in his life.
“I quickly responded and retrieved the boy and brought him back to the wall,” Huggins said. “The rescue was very impactful and is something I often reflect upon.”
Huggins, an Evans, Georgia native, and now a U.S. Marine currently serving as the Supply Management Division Audit Branch Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge for Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, has taken his passion for swimming and that memory of his first year as a lifeguard to continue helping people use potentially life-saving skills by also serving as one of 11 Marine Corps Instructors of Water Survival (MCIWS) at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tyler Huggins, a Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, at the Iron Works South pool at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan on November 9, 2022. Upon certification, MCIWS are responsible for overseeing water training, swim qualification courses, and developing service members throughout the entire Marine Corps. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lance Kell.)
Huggins’s aptitude for swimming began at 5 years old. In high school, he joined the school's varsity swim team. At 15 years old, he became an American Red Cross certified lifeguard, learning how to conduct water rescues, how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Then at 16, he became a coach for the summer swim team where he used what he had learned throughout his life to prepare and mentor swim team members into becoming proficient competitors.
“One of my fondest memories in the water was when I first started coaching the summer league swim team,” explained Huggins. “I remember having a coaches relay and all of our swimmers cheered us on in excitement. It was very touching, seeing the swimmers look at the coaches how I looked at the lifeguards when I was little.”
Being a role model is not what Huggins sought, but it was something he grew into as he continued coaching and later became a MCIWS in 2019.
To become a MCIWS, Marines must endure a 3-week program that teaches American Red Cross rescues, CPR/AED administration, Marine Corps rescues, and the fundamentals of teaching Marines water survival. The red cross rescues include familiarization with pool rules, a lifeguard float, and working with other rescuers; the Marine Corps rescues are combat based in a water environment requiring potential MCIWS to perform deep water rescues while wearing personal protective equipment; and a key element of the course is ensuring the soon-to-be instructors know how to help individuals who are not confident in the water become confident by using the crawl, walk, run methodology.
“Being a MCWIS to me is one of my biggest accomplishments in the Marine Corps,” Huggins said. “I will never forget the lessons I learned and still apply to this day.”
Using his background as an instructor and coach, Huggins continuously passes these lessons to his students and junior Marines. Much of what he has learned has helped others become more effective swimmers, amphibious warfighters, and overall people.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tyler Huggins, a Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, teaches blouse inflations during water survival training at the Iron Works South pool at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan on November 10, 2022. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lance Kell.)
“Staff Sgt. Huggins not only swims daily, but anytime I have seen him in the pool, there are always junior Marines next to him,” said 2nd Lt. Samuel Sawyer, an Aviation Supply Officer, with MALS-12. “Whether it is a weekday or a weekend, Staff Sgt. Huggins will be in the pool to assist others. He has successfully trained swimmers to become more comfortable in the water whether it is to pass swim qualification or train for Marine Forces Special Operations Command Assessment & Selection.”
U. S. Marines are America's amphibious fighting force. Earning the title of United States Marine requires every recruit to earn at a minimum a basic swim qualification. During the various qualification levels Marines, at every stage of their careers, are required to demonstrate water survival proficiency. Huggins and other MCIWS are responsible for teaching skills that could be the difference between life or death.
“I think it is important for people to be comfortable and confident in the water because it is a necessary life skill,” Huggins said. “Learning how to swim is something everyone should do. As a MCIWS I have a responsibility to ensure Marines are not just swim qualified but comfortable and confident in the water.”
His first rescue tested if he was up to the task of saving a life. Since then, Huggins has made and carried on the commitment of teaching and preparing others with the necessary tools to, if necessary, react as he did.
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