PHILIPPINE SEA, March 11, 2016 —
Navy 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. As he hits the water, his training kicks in and he swims over to "Oscar," the man overboard training dummy.
Martinez, from Pueblo, Colorado, is one of three certified search and rescue, or 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,” he said. “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 crew member 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.
To become certified as a SAR, Martinez spent four weeks in 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,” Martinez said. “At the end of the day, you felt accomplished.”
Despite experiencing severe cramps several times during training, he built found a way to battle through it. “I learned to eat bananas, lots of bananas,” Martinez said. “It helps a lot during the endurance training.”
Seaman Dylan Geraci, a ship’s serviceman, one of Martinez’s close friends aboard Stockdale and his roommate while in port, helped him get through the tougher days of SAR training.
“When he would come home, he would be beat, he would be sore, he wouldn’t want to do anything except lie in bed,” Geraci said. “I could see how much of a toll it was taking on him. Every day 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 says he would do it all over again.
“It was definitely worth it; I hold a collateral duty that saves lives,” he said. “It also opens up other opportunities, such as packages to be a diver ... overall, it’s definitely helped me grow as a sailor.”