I Tried the SOCOM Dive Screener and Here's What I Learned
Before we begin, here's a brief outline
The SOCOM dive screener consists of 5 minutes of bobbing from underwater to surface, 2 minutes of floating, traveling 100 meters, a front flip, a backflip, retrieving a mask from the bottom of the pool, and 4 bobs with the mask. And if that doesn't sound hard enough, you have to do this with your hands and feet tied.
Please do not ever attempt this by yourself and never tie the restraints so tight that they are unbreakable. I know this sounds less exciting, but this test can potentially be fatal if you do so by yourself.
I'm not the most confident in the water, and this is what this test is all about. Confidence in the water allows you to be calm, and remain focused on the screening.
I attempted this test to challenge myself and to show others the reality of the environment these SOCOM applicants will go through during their pipeline. Keep in mind, I was doing this in a somewhat relaxed environment and the applicants in the US military will not.
Before we get into the specifics, if you are going into the Marine Corps and considering Marine Raider or Recon you'll need to be in peak performance shape.
Agoge Training offers a protocol that has been developed by Marine Raiders and Recon Marines that train your swimming, calisthenics, and cardiovascular type training.
The programs are located here inside the Agoge training website.
Check out Agoge Training
For starters, during the SOCOM dive screener, you will be required to complete 5 minutes of bobbing (a less intimidating term for drown proofing). Here's my take on this drown-proofing phase.
The key is to time your breaths between the surface to surface. You will grab a breath of air, breathe out slowly while sinking to the bottom and push off of the bottom just enough to make it to the surface. Any extra effort here on that push off and you will be using lots of energy, forcing your heart rate to increase.
During these 5 minutes, you need to get into a rhythm of relaxed breathing. After a couple of minutes, this becomes easier. For me, the toughest part is finding that rhythm and finding the right amount of motion to control your heart rate and remain calm.
You will be required to float on your stomach for two minutes. This gets tricky because as you breathe, you'll have to exhale at some point which leads to sinking. The key here (in my opinion) is to grab that nice big breath of air, and roll your shoulders slightly down into the water exposing as much of your middle/lower back as possible. Since the lungs fill up the majority of the abdomen, rolling your spine just a tad will allow you to get maximum surface area and float much easier.
IMPORTANT. After you have grabbed that breath, you may find yourself sinking down a little and this is normal. This is from the delayed response of exhaling and re-inflating your lungs with oxygen.
During this part, relax and keep your shoulders rolled. Wait until your body is floating on the surface for a few seconds before you move to take another breath.
When taking a breath, move your head from facing the water up into the sky for that new breathe. This is when the process starts all over again. You'll sink just a tad, you'll roll your shoulders down into the water exposing your back, and you'll float to the surface awaiting your next chance to take a breath.
If you are considering using any other technique than the dolphin kick, you are mistaken. The dolphin kick is the way to move without your hands and feet.
Remember what I told you about the floating? The same instance applies except this time, you're utilizing the dolphin kick to propel yourself 100 meters.
I held my breath for as long as I could in order to float, used the dolphin kick, and when it was time to breathe I picked my head out of the water, exhaled, and grabbed another breath of air.
I've seen some applicants go deeper in the water and made a U-shaped recovery (this is much faster) but I felt it was necessary to hold that oxygen so I would stay on the surface and breathe when I wanted. This slowed my heart rate and allowed me to push through the 100 meters.
I won't tell you that I passed the front flip, after all, if you watched the video I did not pass this test. This is where I messed up and this is the part in the blog where I tell you why so you can learn from my mistakes.
When you complete the 100 meters of traveling, you can take up to 5 bobs to attempt your front flip. Use these bobs to get away from the side of the pool, and prepare to front flip underwater.
These bobs will also help you get back into the rhythm of breathing differently while adjusting to the bobs. Your heart rate will be slightly elevated from traveling but don't let this mess with your head. You are completely fine!
I let my elevated heart rate get into my head, and I forgot the front flip.
The same instance applies. You have up to 5 bobs to recover and get back into the groove before your back flip.
Although I failed the test before the front flip, I can give you some solid pointers that just may allow you to pass this test.
As you swim down and grab the mask, grab the corner of the mask (not the strap). If you grab the strap, it will create additional drag on your way up to the surface.
When taking your breathe with mask in mouth, force the additional water out of your mouth by forcefully exhaling, then taking in a fresh breath upon returning subsurface.
After you have completed these 4 bobs with the mask, you have completed the SOCOM dive screener.
Again, if you are looking to go into the Marine Corps, and even considering the Marine Raider/RECON pipeline, the Agoge programs are insanely good programs to get you into the shape needed for these occupations.
Shoutout to the guys who helped me during my time in the pool. Don Tran and Prime Hall are the founders of Deep End Fitness and host pool sessions weekly around a few states.
Check them out below