PHILIPPINE SEA – Seaman Steve Martinez stares at the blue water of the Pacific Ocean as he is lowered into it from the deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106). As he hits the water, his training kicks in, and he swims over to ‘Oscar,’ the man overboard training dummy.
Martinez, from Pueblo, Colo., is one of three certified Search and Rescue (SAR) swimmers aboard the Stockdale. The drill gave him a chance to put his training into action.
“It was my first deployment rescue [training] mission,” said Martinez. “As soon as I was on my way down into the water it … occurred to me that this was happening. I just remembered all my procedures and it went really smooth and ended up being a successful rescue.”
Martinez has been a Stockdale crewmember for a little more than a year. His journey from civilian to one of the most valuable positions on the ship has been short, but exciting.
Martinez’s SAR training was memorable and challenging; four weeks of intense conditioning; including physical training on dry land, hands-on procedure training in the water, and a lot of working out.
Swimming 25 meter sprints along the bottom of the pool developed his endurance.
“You couldn’t come up for a breath of air until you touched the opposite wall,” said Martinez. “At the end of the day, you felt accomplished.”
He experienced severe cramps several times during training. He built up his perseverance and found a way to battle through it. “I learned to eat bananas, lots of bananas,” said Martinez. “It helps a lot during the endurance training.”
Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Dylan Geraci, one of Martinez’s close friends aboard Stockdale, and his roommate while in port, helped him get through the tougher days of SAR training. He believes that Martinez’s will and determination to be a SAR swimmer are what helped him accomplish his goal.
“When he would come home, he would be beat, he would be sore, he wouldn’t want to do anything except lay in bed,” said Geraci. “I could see how much of a toll it was taking on him. Everyday I would ask him, ‘is it hard?’ And he said, ‘yes, it’s hard, but I won’t give up, I want to be qualified to do this.’”
Martinez is proud of what he has accomplished and would do it all over again. “It was definitely worth it; I hold a collateral duty that saves lives,” said Martinez. “It also opens up other opportunities, such as packages to be a diver ... overall, it’s definitely helped me grow as a Sailor.”
Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Stockdale is operating as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group and Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/USS-STOCKDALE-DDG-106 or http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/ddg106/Pages/default.aspx.