MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.— -- What could be a better way to spend a late afternoon during a humid and muggy summer than to expend some energy by making a splash at a nearby pool? One Marine is not only taking in some daily laps, but also sharing his swimming expertise with others as a lifeguard and instructor at the Area Two pool.
Lance Cpl. Donnie L. Harris, administration correspondence clerk with the II Marine Expeditionary Force, has been a Marine for more than a year and has been a lifeguard/instructor for three years. He teaches “water babies” and adults of various skill levels how to butterfly, breaststroke or just stay afloat.
Harris was a regular swimmer at the Area Two pool when the manager offered him a staff position upon completion of a three-week water safety instructor class through Marine Corps Community Services.
“He spent every day up here swimming until we hired him,” said Desiree C. Melcher, the Area Two Pool lead lifeguard. “I’d say he is one of, if not the top, swimmer here. Donnie really works well with kids and everyone overall because he’s a real people person.”
Harris' swimming skills and knowledge of water safety came about from experience as a civilian lifeguard in Altus, Okla., where he took a high school course on basic lifeguard skills, swimming distances, first aid for minor wounds and hypothermia. This training strengthened his performance during Marine Corps recruit training, where he passed the combat water survival qualification at level one.
He said the funniest thing during recruit training swim qualification was jumping off the platform because many of the other recruits weren't used to being in the water. However, he added, each task was more difficult because of all the gear he wore while constantly treading water.
Harris’ civilian, Marine Corps and off-duty employment experiences are means to pursue his goal of earning the highest water survival qualified level, or Water Survival Qualified.
Even after achieving WSQ, Harris also plans to stay a lifeguard/instructor for his remaining time on active duty.
"I would even do this job for free because it's so much fun," said Harris. "You meet new people every day and it's a good feeling teaching kids that haven't learned how to swim yet."
There are two types of swim lessons Harris teaches - individual and group. The six course levels are standardized by the American Red Cross and each level advances newcomers into becoming basic swimmers.
Level one caters to nonswimmers and gets the students comfortable in an aquatic environment. Level two introduces the front crawl swimming style and also includes exercise tools such as bobbing sticks, which are retrieved from the bottom of the pool and reinforces the comfort level established in level one, said Harris.
By level three, students should be able to swim alone as they learn the backstroke and freestyle techniques. Level four aims to improve on the basic concepts from level three, said Harris.
Level five focuses on distance swimming, said Harris. Students learn the butterfly, backstroke and practice previously learned techniques, he said. Level six is compounded from all the previous levels and includes instruction on lifeguarding safety, he said.
In addition to Marine's taking advantage of the Semper Fit Recreational facility for fun, it is also a way to stay in shape and prepare for the Marine Corps’ semi-annual Physical Fitness Test.
"My run time improved to 19 minutes with a PFT score of 265," said Harris.
Swimming is the coolest way to work out because it builds endurance, focuses the mind and is the ultimate stress reliever, he said.
The Area Two Pool hosts the Camp Lejeune Swim Club program, where participants can earn rewards for hitting 50, 200, 500 and 1,000-mile distance goals.
Harris encourages swimming on base because it's fun and there are always new people to meet. After work, it's something to do on a hot and sunny day, he said.
For information on the group and individual classes, contact the Area Two Pool at 910-451-2513 or the Aquatic Director at 910-451-2024.