USMC COMBATANT DIVER BADGE
In designing its Marine Combatant Diver (MCD) Course, the United States Marine Corps Combat Development Command worked with the experts at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) in Panama City, Florida to create a system that combines the best training in both tactical swimming and combatant diving. Earning the USMC Combatant Diver breast insignia is a significant achievement—and the challenges begin before students even set foot aboard the NDSTC.
Combatant Diver training is expensive and classroom slots are limited, so the Corps does everything it can to weed out candidates who fall even slightly short in any one of a number of physical performance categories. Limited to volunteers under the age of 35, MCD candidates must have completed the Basic Reconnaissance Course (MOS 321) and earned a General Technical score of at least 105.
Completion of an extensive unit-endorsed Predive program is mandatory, and this alone discourages some hopefuls from continuing. The minimum requirements for the open-water surface swim test, for example, requires the candidate to maintain a minimum swimming speed of one knot while performing timed swims of 1000, 1500, and 2000 yards—wearing both a load-bearing and a UDT vest, two canteens full of water, cartridge belt, six-pound weight to simulate ammo, rifle, knife, mask, and snorkel. Other tests include treading water, drown-proofing, underwater swims, and underwater knot-tying.
Those who meet these and sundry other qualification requirements will be taught open- and closed-circuit diving techniques at an advanced level to prepare them to adequately perform as a member of a dive team. Through classroom lectures, expert demonstrations, and hands-on experience, the future MCDs are taught diving fundamentals, underwater navigation and searches, diving physiology, open-circuit SCUBA use, and closed-circuit UBA use.