While some suitable substitutes are, well…suitable, sometimes it is absolutely essential to duplicate the exact gear used at selection. In this write-up, I have done the research and found the 7 critical pieces of equipment that you need to train with to be successful inside the pool while at PJ Indoc, CCT assessment, Phase 2 assessments & Dive School. All of the pieces have equal value: you must be well-rounded to be successful at selection. You could be a stud at underwaters, buddy breathing, mask/snorkel recovery, one man comp, etc etc, but if you can’t handle a weight belt on your hips, you will fail just as easily as someone who struggles in any other event.
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1) The dive mask used for Air Force selection courses is massive. It is important to train on this: Single Lens Dive Mask to get used to the amount of air it takes to clear this behemoth. There are small nuances to this mask that you must get used to such as how to properly trace the head strap & feeling where the nose cup is underwater so you don’t put the mask on upside down (this happens ALL the time to the untrained).
2) Grabbing the right snorkel is critical for buddy breathing. Ensure you get either the: Snorkel – J-Tube or J Tube Snorkel Clear Mouth as getting intimately familiar with this snorkel will help you succeed when you are under full harassment. This snorkel takes a bit more air to clear than other snorkels due to its larger than normal lower mouth piece section. You may have an adjustment period with the bite blocks and upper mouth piece as well I’ve seen guys struggle to establish a seal quickly while in the pool.
3) Finning with stiff Rocket style fins is an experience that cannot be duplicated with substitution. Your legs and feet will need to experience the suck of fin swimming with these: IST Rocket Fins for Military Special Ops, L prior to going to selection. The force that is put on your legs is critical to experience as well as learning the skills of ditch and don with these type of straps will help you be ready for when its time to perform. Expect calf, foot and hamstring cramps when ramping up training with these fins.
4) At selection, booties aren’t just used for finning. An easy way to make underwaters (or any pool event) more challenging is by slapping on these: Black Zippered Dive Bootie and watch yourself struggle. These booties are a perfect fit for the IST Fins mentioned above.
5) There have been many of candidates who could fin great, but once that: Weight Belt, Black went on for the first time, their eyes would get big and they’d mercilessly sink to the bottom. Don’t be that guy that struggles with a weight belt when it comes time to put in on when it counts. This belt also has a clasp that can be difficult to manage while performing ditch & dons.
WARNING: Do not perform weight belt swims in the deep end without a buddy! Always ensure you have the belt setup so it will release with your right hand
6) A weight belt is useless without weights. Grab 4 of these: Uncoated Lace Thru Style Hard Weights, 4Pounds to get 16 lbs total. When starting, I recommend going with 8 lbs and working up to 16. There is a particular way to place these on the belt that unless you’ve been to selection before, you won’t know the nuances– if you are unsure, ask in the specialtactics.com forums here.
7) Underwater knot tying is a skill that takes finesse and repetitiveness to master. Use this: 7mm Accessory Cord to learn the square knot, inside bowline, girth hitch w/ an extra turn and the single fisherman’s knot. TIP: Grab the 20′ or 30′ length and cut out two equal pieces of 36″ each. Use the rest of the rope as your line that you will tie your knot around.