A News Health — 12 December 2014

MCIWS_1 On November 25th, six students graduated from the Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival course (MCIWS), out of nine that began. One of those students was Staff Sergeant Adam Jacks of Newark, Ohio.

The Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival course is a program designed to “train Marines and Sailors to perform duties as Marine Corps Instructors of Water Survival.” One of the military’s toughest swim qualifications, students learn how to react and survive in frigid waters, as well as perform open water rescue drills in full battle gear, simulating real world scenarios. The course has a high dropout rate, with an attrition rate between 20 to 50 percent.

Jacks lost his leg on April 3, 2011, while serving in Afghanistan. He stepped onto a pressure plate which triggered an improvised explosive device. Jacks suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as the loss of his right leg at mid-thigh.MCIWS_Adam Jacks

Although Jacks could have been medically retired, he fought to stay on active duty, feeling that he had much more to contribute to the Marine Corps. He was granted an expanded permanent limited duty status while he recovered, and after nine months, was granted permission to resume active duty.

According to an article by Maj. Eve Baker on www.marines.mil, Jacks has many different prosthetic legs:

“20 different legs, and each has a unique purpose…If I don’t have one that works well for the situation, that will set me up for failure,” Jacks said.

Metro-AdJacks had to improvise, to develop a buoyant prosthetic that would enable him to stay at a level position in the water.

Even with the buoyant leg, Jacks had to put in dozens of extra training hours to become more proficient, frequently staying at the pool until 6:30 or 7 p.m., up to two hours after the other students had left for the day.

Being proficient with his prosthesis, especially in the water, was critical. Averaging 2.8 miles of swimming per day, Jacks had to learn to swim with the new prosthetic, as the prosthesis created some unforeseen obstacles such as his body rolling over during swimming.

“The first week [of the MCIWS course] was pretty hellacious because I had to relearn how to swim properly and use my upper body.” said Jacks.

The extra training paid off, and after a cumulative 59 miles of swimming in 3 weeks, Jacks completed the course and became theKeeping Afloat: Marines fight to earn title as water survival instructors first amputee graduate of the MCIWS course.

As one of nearly 600 MCIWS graduates, Jack now also holds American Red Cross Lifeguarding, First Aid, and CPR for the Professional Rescuer certifications.

All photos courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps


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Geoff Sims

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