Everyone who enters the U.S. Navy must pass a Navy Third Class Swim Test. The initial test is conducted in basic training (boot camp) for enlisted personnel, and as part of officer accession training (OCS), in the Academy or as part of ROTC for commissioned officers. Navy personnel in certain ratings—jobs—must be able to pass the requirements for a second class swim test.
The Navy does offer remedial swim training to those not accustomed to swimming, but this is often during any "free" time the recruit or student may have. He or she is still expected to pass the basics of the swim assessment to join the ranks in the Navy.
Third Class Swim Test
A third class swim test is a determines if a person can stay afloat and survive without the use of a personal flotation device (PFD) in open water long enough to be rescued in a man-overboard situation. The third class swimmer qualification is the minimum entry-level requirement for all U.S. Navy personnel.
This test consists of two modules. Module one has three separate events, a deep water jump, a 50-yard swim (using any stroke), and a 5-minute prone float. Swimmers who successfully pass module one may continue to module two.
Using Clothing as a Flotation Device
Module two consists of a shirt and trouser inflation. Leaving a small air bubble in the shirt, or inflating the trousers tests the swimmer's ability not only to create a makeshift flotation device out of his or her clothing but to use the inflated clothing to stay afloat.
There are scenarios where removing clothing isn't a good idea, for instance, if the swimmer needs to stay afloat in very cold water, or in water where he or she is exposed to intense sun. Removing one's clothes in the former situation could result in hypothermia, and in the latter situation could result in a sunburn.
There are several ways the Navy recommends inflating clothes to use as flotation devices, which the swimmer should learn prior to the test. For the purposes of the test, allowing an air bubble to form in the shirt is sufficient.
Second Class Swim Test
A second class swim test is a test to determine if a person can stay afloat and survive without the use of a personal flotation device indefinitely. The second class swimmer qualification is used as an entry-level requirement for small boat operators, Naval aircrew, and rescue swimmers.
The second class swim test consists of a deep water jump, 100-yard swim demonstrating 25 yards each of the crawl stroke, breaststroke, sidestroke, and elementary backstroke. Immediately after the completion of the swim, without leaving the water, students will prone float (face down) for 5 minutes and transition to a back float before exiting the water.
First Class Swim Test
The first class swim test is required for certain Naval duties, such as to become a certified Navy swimming instructor.
To pass the first class swim test, candidates must first obtain a Red Cross or YMCA life-saving or lifeguard certificate. The candidate must show proficiency with the crawl stroke, breaststroke, sidestroke, and elementary backstroke.
Additionally, they must perform a 25-yard underwater swim, surfacing twice. This portion of the test is meant to recreate conditions where it may not be safe for a swimmer to remain on the surface of the water for long, for example, if they are involved in a plane crash or shipwreck where there is burning fuel on the water's surface.