Swimming is one of those things that is often misunderstood by many future Marines. You do not have to be a “swimmer” to be able to pass swim week during boot camp or as a Marine. Passing swim week isn’t so much about being a proficient swimmer. It is more about being confident in the water and being able to move from point A to point B in a pool and this includes in the deeper water and while wearing boots and some gear.
You are not taught how to swim during boot camp, but the instructors will help you and show you the basics so you can pass your swim qual. You are not forced into the water or underwater or any crazy crap like that. Like anything in the USMC including boot camp, your safety is their number one concern which is why certified USMC swim experts are there watching very closely as you enter the pool. And you will be given a period of instruction prior to entering the pool.
If you can swim now at any level or can jump in a pool or ocean and float around without freaking out, you will pass your swim qual. If you do not know how to swim and can learn now, then it only makes sense to learn. If you have a fear of swimming, then what can I tell you. The only way to conquer your fear of the water is to get into the water.
You do not need to know how to do the backstroke or butterfly or any crazy crap like that. This is a very basic water survival course and it is not preparing you to be an Olympic class swimmer. At the very least you want to know how to “doggy paddle” in the water and you want to know how to use your legs to move you around in the water. << That is what you want to know. As long as you are somewhat confident in the water, you will pass your swim qual regardless of your swim level.
The following info is from the Marine Corps website (2013) : “In an Olympic-sized pool, recruits are required to complete the course of qualification, which includes a 25-meter swim in both the shallow and deep water, four minutes of treading water, utilizing a waterproof pack to swim 25 meters and perform a 10-second gear strip while submerged. All of this is done while wearing a full combat utility uniform and a pair of combat boots.” <<< That is what you need to do during boot camp to pass the lowest level of your swim qualification. *** It is unclear whether recruits still have to jump off a platform and maneuver to safety during swim qual. The USMC did not mention the platform jump in their official statement, but new Marines are saying that they had to do the platform jump.
Here is a video of Marine Corps recruit training swim qual. USMC BOOT CAMP SWIM QUAL