MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Proper planning prevents poor performance. This mantra is known across the Marine Corps. It helps Marines prepare for anything, particularly drowning.
Two Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment (3/2), 2d Marine Division, were swept out to sea by a rip current near Cape Lookout Point, North Carolina, July 17, 2021.
Cpl. James Farley was on the beach when he realized his fellow riflemen, Lance Cpl. Colton Harpole, a Louisville, Ky., native, and Lance Cpl. Quentin Wigg, a Hastings, Mich., native, were no longer visible in the water.
Farley immediately jumped into action. He borrowed a pair of binoculars, and he located Wigg who eventually made it to shore on his own after spending a little more than an hour in the water.
“I had made this swim before, but that day the rip current had just been worse,” Wigg said. “Once I got out, my first thought was my buddy, and I didn't see him.”
Wigg and Farley continued to search, and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene after being contacted by a pedestrian. Harpole was eventually spotted by beachgoers, and he was rescued after spending more than three hours in the water.
“I was just trying to keep a calm mental state,” Harpole said. “That seemed like the best way to handle the situation. I knew that if I started freaking out and panicking then I wouldn't make it out of this.”
Emergency medical services took Harpole to the hospital for evaluation and subsequent release, and all three Marines made it back to their unit unharmed.
“It would be too easy to say these Marines were lucky,” said Col. Steven Sutey, commanding officer of 2d Marine Regiment. “It appears in this case that understanding the threat, remaining calm, the Marines’ physical stamina, and bystander assistance were all contributing factors to the fortunate outcome.”
The Marines specifically cited their company safety brief as an instrument in helping them stay afloat, which was given by 1st Sgt. Michael Archer, company first sergeant for Lima Company, 3/2.
“We give safety briefs every week, and we end up hearing the same thing over again, so I try to focus on the important parts,” Archer said. “I specifically emphasized that if they didn't listen to anything else I said, listen to the part about rip currents. I told my guys to only swim where there were lifeguards, not to try to fight against the current and stay calm.”
Quick thinking, perseverance, and knowledge of rip current safety techniques ensured these Marines could return home.
For more information about Marines involved in the event, please contact 1st Lt. Sydney Murkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.