Marines conquer safety boat course
WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, Okinawa, Japan -- As the safety vessel cuts through the ocean swells, its operator makes a sharp turn, inadvertently causing the power steering to go out. Without panicking, he uses skills recently learned during a safety boat course to safely steer the vessel back to the dock without issue.
Service members participated in a safetyboat qualification course Feb. 1-7 at White Beach Naval Facility to enhance future training opportunities for their units. The service members are with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Special Operations Training Group, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF.
“This course allows Marines to be able to use a safety boat when they’re conducting training,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jerry Colby, a safety boat qualification course instructor with Marine Corps Systems Command, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., who traveled to Okinawa to teach the course. “This course makes it possible for their units to conduct more advanced training in the water, like dive training, with the benefit of having a safety boat on scene with a qualified driver.”
The course familiarized students with the operation and upkeep of safety boats.
“During the course, we teach service members about the equipment on the boat, the fundamentals of driving the boat during the day and night, and how to plot a course, use the radar, and launch and recover the boat with a trailer,” said Colby. “All these skills are mandatory to operate the boat and use it as a safety platform.”
Even with experience operating other types of boats, some of the service members had to overcome an initial learning curve.
“The first time I operated the safety boat, it was different than what I’m used to because it has dual engines,” said Sgt. Johnathon C. Beck, a reconnaissance man with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. “It took awhile for me to get used to using a different control for each motor, but it comes in handy when the power steering goes out, since you can still control the boat with the motors.”
Secondary steering is possible by using each motor’s throttle individually, one in forward and the other in reverse, to steer the boat.
“The most beneficial part of the course was being able to actually go out into the open water and practice going to different grid points,” said Beck. “It helped show the importance of following a plotted route, so you don’t run into a reef or shallow waters.”
After a week of instruction and testing, all of the service members passed the course and received certification as official safety boat operators.
“The training received from the course will be extremely useful in the future,” said Beck. “It will be easier now for the Marines (with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion) to execute more open-water type training without having to worry about arranging for a safety-boat driver from another unit.”