Soldier tried to identify as a ‘weak swimmer’ before Ranger School river drowning

| March 17, 2022

CPL James Requenez

Jeff LPH 3 sends in this Army Times report on the death of Corporal James Requenez. Requenez, assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, was a student in the Army Ranger School. Near the end, he attempted to flag himself as a poor swimmer on a water event, but the cadre denied the request. Moments later, the young Ranger was struggling to cross the stream, ultimately drowning.

From the article;

Cpl. James A. Requenez was a high performer, known for his selflessness and carrying the most weight on ruck marches.

But prior to a river crossing during Ranger School’s final phase in Florida in March 2021, he exercised a rare moment of personal concern, according to witness statements made after his drowning death that were obtained by Army Times.

Before Requenez’s class began their final field exercise, instructors asked which students were the “weak swimmers,” a label that offers extra safety considerations. Requenez raised his hand.

However, an instructor told the 28-year-old member of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, that he had to have been identified as a weak swimmer during the initial phase of the course in Georgia, three witnesses said. Since he passed the water survival assessment early in the course, he would not carry the label in Florida.

One student said in his statement that Requenez was not a strong swimmer. The two had talked previously and Requenez did not want to undergo that water assessment again, which involves swimming with a rifle and load-bearing vest. But whatever worries Requenez had weren’t voiced further.

On the day of the river crossing, he even volunteered to carry his squad’s M240 machine gun, though he had never taken it across a rope bridge before. Ranger School policy states that any student who is a weak swimmer cannot carry special equipment, and they also must wear a chemical light stick to identify them.

“He willingly took the 240 that day and seemed fine throughout the swamp,” one fellow trainee’s witness statement reads. “He didn’t voice any struggles.”

Requenez’s drowning death during the river crossing that followed was investigated by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center. Witnesses statements and a mishap report were obtained by Army Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

There were three recommendations included in the report, all of which were redacted. Requenez’s wife was told one change to the course involves the use of life vests among instructors.

“The two instructors that did try to help my husband got tired,” Nieves Requenez told Army Times. ”They think that with the life vests they could have been able to help a little bit more since they wouldn’t have lost a lot of energy.”

On the eighth day of the field exercise, March 25, 2021, the students were tasked with moving by Zodiac boat through swampland and crossing a river before raiding an objective. They reached the river close to sunset, at about 6:20 p.m.

The current was stronger than expected. After two students who were good swimmers set up the rope, the instructors sent across one student who was previously identified as a weak swimmer. Everything seemed to be going well.

But another M240 gunner that day, whose name was redacted from the investigation, said in his witness statement that the rope “bridge was pretty loose,” making it harder to cross.

The unnamed student had trouble when he got to the halfway point because he couldn’t lean back and push away the rope, as students were told to do, without taking on water. Instead, he let go of the rope and began to swim.

He lost control of his M240?s tug line as he swam. When he reached the river bank, he tried to warn instructors that he accidentally left his weapon on the rope, but they told him to standby because they were dealing with something more pressing: The next M240 gunner, Requenez, was struggling to keep his head above water.

Instructors coached him from the riverbank to calm down and lean back so his rucksack could serve as a floatation [sic] device, according to the investigation. Safety swimmers went out to help him get his ruck off, but it kept rolling and Requenez couldn’t control it. Some time during the struggle, Requenez went under and his team lost sight of him.

An instructor traced the rope underwater. He felt the picatinny rail of an M240, but nothing else, according to his witness statement. The team began taking down the rope so a rescue boat could cross and search downstream in case Requenez had washed away.

But as the soldiers pulled the rope to the riverbank, they felt considerable weight. An unresponsive Requenez was still attached to it by his swimmer safety line, along with the other M240, according to the investigation.

Medics performed CPR on Requenez as the rescue boat sped a mile down the river to an ambulance, which took him to a helicopter. From there, he was flown to Eglin Air Force Base Hospital.

Requenez arrived at about 7 p.m. and was pronounced deceased by the attending physician a short while later.

Sounds like a series of fuck ups, with plenty of blame and guilt to go around.

Category: Army, Ranger, Training Incidents

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Anonymous

For want of something more somber:
comment image

Last edited 3 months ago by Anonymous
Sapper3307

One rope bridge, DIY.
PCw6ZuNOUyM

HT3

The ‘weak swimmer’ designation bothers me. How can you be a member of a unit that may need to ford rivers and/or use other unconventional means to cross water on a battlefield and be a weak swimmer? It seems like that person is not only danger to themselves but to the rest of the unit. This is not a smart-ass question. It seems to me like putting a slow runner on you relay team and be surprised when you come in last.

Rest in Peace Cpl. James A. Requenez.

Sapper3307

Three classes of swimmers.
Non swimmers , wont pass CWST or attend RANGER school
Weak swimmer, Identified and marked on rear of patrol cap.
Swimmer, good to go.
RANGER school in processing ,
IVn4Q_S13BM

MI Ranger

HT3,
The only thing wrong with your assessment is that this was training. A time to identify those things, and work to improve them. This seems like a series of mistakes, compounded by others. Hopefully the RI who told him he couldn’t be identified as a weak swimmer, since he passed his Swim Test, was sent on to other positions in the Regular Army or TRADOC to contemplate his decisions. If someone doesn’t think they can swim the M240 across, you take it across…or at least keep a close eye on them. My question is why was there only one boat? Going across on a weak rope (not tight) is bad enough, strong current is just asking for someone to get hurt. We had an incident happen in 1st BN when we were rehearsing with strong currents. Our Combat Swimmers had problems so they called the rest off.
Rest in peace CPL Requenez. Rangers Lead the Way

Sapper3307

As a week swimmer, I agree with you.

RGR 4-78

I am willing to bet that the “lost” M-240 that was still attached to the rope helped to bog him down.

Rest in peace CPL Requenez.

KoB

Yep, someone gots some ‘splainin’ to do. Training can be and IS as dangerous as the real thing. Sympathies to the Family and Team Mates of CPL James Requenez.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

RIP CPL Requenez

Roh-Dog

This should not have happened. NCOs, do better.

Rest In Peace, Dear Ranger.

Steve 1371

I can float nearly indefinitely. That may be necessary if a ship is sunken out from under you. I can not swim with a load of heavy gear for very long. There should be a better way of getting the heavy stuff across. Fast current doesn’t get tired but it will exhaust you very rapidly. What a waste of a good soldier. Rest In Peace Cpl. Requenez. You did your best.

Sparks

Training for combat can be as deadly as combat.

Rest in peace Cpl. James A. Requenez.

Planet Ord

A good high school friend of mine died in a similar manner at Fort Stewart. He was a Ranger out of Hunter and did a stream crossing while humping the 60. The hole was deeper than anticipated. The swamps at Stewart are nasty places. He went down and under, holding the 60 above his head. He drowned. Rest In Peace, Greg.

timactual

I don’t recall even being asked whether I could swim or not when my company crossed a number of rivers in RVN. I always felt sorry for the guys who carried the 90mm recoilless rifle and 81 mm mortar. Of course, we were not Rangers. Maybe that’s why we were told to look out for the body of a guy from another company who had been swept away a couple of days previously. Still MIA as far as I know.

rgr769

As one of my instructors said with regard for the individual soldier, “this is a case of mind over matter; we don’t mind, and you don’t matter.” Of course, he was talking about Ranger students.

timactual

Ranger students?
Ah, yes, those poor, miserable, starving husks of former human beings I used to see wandering through the tropical paradise of North Florida, the invigorating (particularly in winter) mountain vistas of Dahlonega, and the fruited plains of Ft. Benning.

rgr769

90mm recoilless rifles. Man, I can’t imagine dragging those to the bush. As for the mortars, they stayed on the battalion firebase except for a few occasions when my company occupied an abandoned firebase as a patrol base.

timactual

I always thought it was stupid having a whole platoon dragging around one 81 mm mortar with 12 rounds of ammunition (“Airmobile” my left whatsit). Waste of scarce manpower. Particularly in the mountains. Mo bettah they carry extra water and ammo, maybe some tools, or explosives to quickly blow an LZ. ARVN and Marines used a 60 mm. Left us a whole pile of 60 mm ammo on LZ Betty

The 90 mm had a nice flechette round; otherwise, pretty useless.

rgr769

We packed the M-72 LAW’s strapped to the top of the rucks of several guys in each platoon. Since about half of them failed to fire, that was a wasted effort as well. Luckily, the one time we unknowingly walked into the middle of a well camouflaged enemy bunker complex, it was unoccupied.
We had a 60 mm mortar that the 1st Marine Div. Recon Battalion left behind in Da Nang, but no ammo. So, my very clever Supply/motor SGT traded several cases of LRRP rations to the NCO running a massive ASP in Da Nang. We had to do this deal because US Army units weren’t authorized 60 mm ammo. Both came in handy when we had to man a small firebase on a tiny peak that only accommodated two 105 mm howitzers. We used up the whole pallet of our 60mm illum rounds during the ten days we were there.

timactual

We actually got some training on the M-72 about halfway through my tour! A 15 minute demo/class on how to use a weapon we had been humping for months—typical. Oddly enough I never even heard of the M-72 during my tour in Germany.
From what I have read, the SF guys at Lang Vei used them against NVA PT-76s when they were overrun. Several hits with zero effect. The PT-76 is an amphibious light tank weighing less than 15 tons.

timactual

“walked into the middle of a well camouflaged enemy bunker complex”

Easy to do. Those little buggers were good. I still admire the quality and quantity of their work, using only hand tools. We once fund a barracks complex; no bunkers, just two-story barracks (bottom floor was mostly a bomb shelter) with bunks and a few tables and chairs. They left behind all sorts of stuff; clothing, small (but then again I was smaller back then, too) but wearable, blankets, even gas masks. We stayed about a week while the “intelligence” wallahs examined it. No indoor plumbing or electricity, but very comfy nonetheless.

poetrooper

What ol’ Poe remembers about fording rivers in Vietnam was how many times he and other good swimmers had to “escort” poor swimmers across, removing our own gear after crossing, then going back for them, usually making multiple trips. We had a lot of black guys in our company and many of them were either poor swimmers or didn’t swim at all.

Poe didn’t learn the reason for that until after he ETS’d and went back to finish college. In a physical anthropology class, he learned that African blacks are genetically inclined to have higher bone density and thus heavier bones than other races which greatly reduces their natural buoyancy. They also tend to have a lower body fat index, further contributing to the problem. It’s why you don’t see many blacks on competitive swim teams. Probably why you don’t see many of them on SEAL teams either.

Of course, for Poe to say this means he’s RAYCISS!!!

rgr769

Yes, everyone now knows human biology is rayciss. But if you are a Prog, you always follow the science, the political science of crypto-communism.

timactual

“African blacks are genetically inclined to have higher bone density and thus heavier bones than other races which greatly reduces their natural buoyancy.”

LOL

You naughty boy! Say hello to Jimmy the Greek for me.

Evidently there is something my parents forgot to tell me. I have never been able to float. Still can’t. My bones must be very dense indeed. Could also explain my excellent sense of rhythm and taste in music. The low body fat thing must be a recessive gene, I definitely didn’t get that.

poetrooper

“Data from the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF) and the Baltimore Men’s Osteoporosis Study (MOST) show that, in both sexes, blacks have higher adjusted bone mineral density than whites and a slower age-adjusted annual rate of decline in bone mineral density. Genetic, nutritional, lifestyle and hormonal factors may contribute to these ethnic/racial differences in bone strength.”

Racial Differences in Bone Strength – PMC (nih.gov)

Also, Jimmy the Greek wasn’t wrong in what he said–he was merely politically incorrect. Slave owners did indeed breed their slaves to increase their work output through increased strength and endurance.

Snyder also was correct about bone structure of the legs accounting for greater running skills, something else I learned in physical anthropology back in the days before political correctness forced academia to ignore inconvenient truths that don’t fit progressives’ socio-political memes.

timactual

interesting. Thanks for the link.

Ever notice that every answer raises new questions?

AW1Ed

Fair winds and following seas, Corporal Requenez.

rgr769

In the year immediately preceding my Ranger School class, there were two killed by lightning in Florida, one drowning, and heat exhaustion death at Benning. There was no such thing as a “weak swimmer” designation for those proceeding with the course. Anyone who had difficulty passing that swimming test was recycled and given swimming training until they could pass the test without difficulty. Over twenty people in my class were gone after that swimming test. In Florida in January, we did two or three river crossings, two at night. Our rucks were attached to the one-rope bridge with one or two snap links and pulled across. We went in the water wearing nothing but our underwear and our rifles and web gear. The M-60’s in my platoon were rigged and pulled across with a sling rope and snap links. No one died in my class, but in the mountain phase, one student fell going up Licklog Mountain while carrying the M-60; he broke his hip and was walking with a cane over a year later.

Bones

I was in 13-83. I’m not aware of any designation of “weak swimmer.” You either passed or didn’t. If you didn’t, you were out. (As far as I remember)

Other than that, my experiences are just as you describe. Rucks snap-linked to the rope, M60’s snap-linked to the rope, “Studs” (Ranger students) snap-linked to the rope.

It’s a hazardous school. Walking off cliffs in the mountains, paddling a Zodiac at night in the Gulf of Mexico, night combat equipment parachuting with little sleep and little food and monster rucks. Living in wet and cold, hypothermia, “droning” and hallucinating because of lack of sleep and food.

Not for the weak or fainthearted.

rgr769

Ditto. I think this “weak swimmer” stuff is just another case of lowering standards so that people that are not comfortable crossing natural water obstacles can still attend the course and get the tab.

In 1973 I took my ODA through the Marine Amphibious Recon Course. We didn’t have any “weak swimmer” designations. Those Jarhead Recon instructors would never have tolerated that; they would have told me to send any of my men who couldn’t cut it to go home. But to get us ready, we had to swim about a half a mile in a lake at morning PT three times a week, both with and without flippers.

timactual

My company at Benning was sent to Dahlonega to do “aggressor” stuff, etc. When we got there they issued us parkas and “mickey mouse” boots. Spent a whole tour in Germany without using those boots but I sure used the damn things in Dahlonega. My heart wept for you guys (when I wasn’t out there myself).
They damn near had a mutiny one night when they made us sit on a truck for a few hours waiting for you guys to show up.My legs were numb to the waist, only time that has ever happened to me. Could barely walk (stumble). We tried to start a fire and used a whole 5 gallon can of gasoline trying to start a fire, to no avail. The wind kept the few flames perfectly horizontal. I think they finally canceled the exercise.
This Yankee learned a little something at Ft. Benning. The southland ain’t all balmy summer evenings on the verandah sippin’ suds and listening to the crickets. I do miss the RC cola sometimes, though.

KoB

timactual, do I need to send you some of them Arrah Sees, a few Moon Pies, Goo Goo Clusters, and maybe some Tom’s Peanuts or other snacks? You know…so you can relive the good times?

Roh-Dog

Since you’re volunteering, I respectfully request a half slab of ribs from 4 Way BBQ in Lumpkin. Please and thank you!

KoB

Just a half slab? No cold slaw or beans? Guess you want the tee shirt too, huh? Order up! ding ding

Roh-Dog

What am I, a heathen? Of course, beens, slaw, cornbread, and a gang of Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale to warsh it down too!

KoB

Gotcha 6 Icebox…Defrosther is coming in hot.

timactual

I’ll take the RCs, keep the Moon Pies. Some of the places I hung out also had pickled pigs feet, pickled eggs, and pickled sausages(?) available, but I have mixed memories (not very clear) about those.

KoB

Those mixed memories might be from finding some of those products in a dimly lit, smokey atmosphere, single mom populated type establishment located on or near Victory Drive. Or across the river in Phenix City. Jus’ sayin’.

rgr769

Yep, packed those mouse boots in my ruck until we stopped for an extended period of time. You couldn’t hump in them, as they caused your feet to sweat and you would get blisters. We hated them but it was better than getting frostbite. I went through the mountain phase in December. It snowed about four inches one night when we were out on the ten day patrol.
One night on patrol in Florida, in January, I kept slipping off a downed tree trunk; couldn’t figure out why until I found there was ice caked up in the sole lugs of my jungle boots.

timactual

Yep. Once I got to experience in a small way just how much fun you guys were having I decided I just wasn’t worthy to enter the gates of Camp Darby.

rgr769

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I didn’t have a choice. In 1968, Big Green had decided that every combat arms RA 2LT was going to Ranger School; it was mandatory. That is why our RA IOBC course was only 5.5 weeks long. In fact my commissioning orders included an order to attend Ranger School, but it was revoked by my orders to attend Basic Airborne. So, my class # changed from #6 to #7. Thus, the week after jump week and graduation, I reported to Harmony Church’s Ranger barracks. (I drove around Benning back in the 90’s and those WWII wooden barracks with no hot water were finally torn down.)

RGR 4-78

You haven’t lived until you have stood under those cold showers and the water felt warm because you were so cold.

timactual

“In 1968, Big Green had decided…”

Ah, that explains some things.

I was at Main Post and Kelley Hill, myself. The barracks at Main always made me think of the movie “From Here To Eternity”. Still have fond memories of Main Post.
Heard a lot about Harmony Church–it seemed to be something of a legend even back then.

rgr769

The last time I was at the Benning School for Wayward Boys was in 2009 for a Ranger Reunion. After quite a while of driving around on post looking for it, I finally found Harmony Church. There was nothing left but some of the concrete foundations. I barely recognized Main Post, but I did find Olson Hall where our IOBC BOQ was located.

timactual

Heh.
Amazing how cold that swamp water can get, eh? My tonsils still have bruises from being smacked by their nether cousins upon entering those cool, refreshing waters. At least the water moccasins were slowed down.

ninja

Rest In Peace, Soldier. As Steve 1371 said, he did his best.

Thank You to all for sharing about their experiences. As Sparks said, training for Combat can be just as deadly as being in Combat.

Even though this tragedy happened a year ago, our thoughts and prayers goes out to his family and love ones.

Charles

Class 8-74. Three part water test Day One:
1- Jump in the deep end, surface, look a cadre in the eye, ask permission to get out. When he says yes, get out.
2 – Jump in the deep end, surface, look the cadre in the eye. When he gave you the command, start swimming 15 meters, stop, look a cadre in the eye. When he said get out, get out.
3 – Go up to the high diving board. Wearing LBE, and with the rifle, give your patrol cap to the cadre. They will pull the ear flaps down and put it on your head backwards (forming a blindfold). The cadre would grab you by the shoulder and you “walk the plank.” As you fell off, he would give you a twist or spin. Fall to the water, surface, swim to the edge, look the cadre in the eye, request permission to get out. When he said get out, get out.
You were in fatigues and leather boots, with a rubber M16A1. If you couldn’t pass all three tests, you were out.
Drop the rifle to the bottom of the pool but otherwise pass, you were a Weak Swimmer.

rgr769

We had to swim it with a very worn M-14. We also didn’t have to “walk the plank” blindfolded, IIRC