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Soldiers undergo training in the water

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Soldiers undergo training in the water
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Every morning, the soldiers of Fort Drum wake up and begin what's called PT, or physical training. But those jumping jacks and push-ups are not getting the body ready for what a soldier actually goes through overseas. So the Army is overhauling the entire program, gearing it toward battle functionality. As part of our week-long look at these major changes to the daily routine, our Brian Dwyer shows us one of the most terrifying and intense, yet completely realistic, workouts a soldier will take part in. Today, Fort Drum moves this "Ultimate Exercise" into the water.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- It's said the first step is the hardest. And this step, for one soldier, was a lot harder than you might think.

"I'm scared of the water," explained Fort Drum soldier Spec. Mario Ortiz.

And Specialist Ortiz isn't alone. Fort Drum offers several swimming courses, including one for those trying to overcome that beginner's fear.

"There may come a time where they have to cross a lake or something like that and it's better for them and beneficial for them to know what to do,” said Heather Mushtare, Water Safety Instructor. "Kind of get them comfortable with it and teach them the survival strokes too. I always tell them, if you get stranded somewhere, then you need to know something. This is a stroke you can do and uses less work and you can get you so many miles if you absolutely needed it."

"You need to know these skills just to preserve your own life. So for me this is like a daily basis mission, learning how to swim," said Spec. Ortiz.

While swimming alone is a great life skill and a tremendous workout, it's a lot like those push-ups and jogging - there's just a lot more to it in battle. So through Functional Fitness, the Army is about to put a whole new spin on it.

"One of the beauties of Functional Fitness is that it's meant to prepare you for the unknown and the unknowable," said Lt. Col. Sean Bernabe, 1st BCT Deputy Commanding Officer.

"They come across water. It's nighttime and they really can't see much of anything. Definitely something important to know how to get yourself through it, because if not…” said Mushtare.

The water, the darkness...the danger. Add lasers, smoke, explosions. It's quite possibly the most intense, scariest workout a soldier will ever experience.

"Basically survival. You don't want to be someone who's stuck and kind of, you don't know what to do. If you know how to survive, you're a lot better off," said Mushtare.

"It's not only designed to build the functional ability to respond in that situation, but also the mental toughness to deal with that," said Lt. Col. Bernabe.

Enough for you? Not here. The limits get pushed further, as soldiers now do it in full battle gear. Swimming in those boots with the water weight, and sometimes in battle, you've got to help out a buddy.

"It's definitely tough, but it's all about learning how to take care of yourself, let alone somebody else as well," said Mushtare.

Specialist Ortiz, who'll certainly go through it one day – well, you can probably guess the emotions running though him.

"It would be scary and I would be confused, too. I don't know if I'm going to swim. I don't know if I'm going to go under the water," said Spec. Ortiz.

That's where practice makes perfect. The exercise is all about muscle memory. No thinking, just reacting. Instinct has to take over. Ortiz is certain he'll get there.

"It's very important that you remain calm under water. That's my problem. That's why I'm here and these guys are going to help me because I'm afraid of water and if you're afraid of something you're going to choke. If you choke, somebody could get hurt including yourself," said Spec. Ortiz.


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