Public safety officers get intensive water survival training

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Emergency service personnel went into the pool with all their gear on as part of training. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Emergency service personnel went into the pool with all their gear on as part of training. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Ofc. Yoseline Robledo with Game and Fish thought she was going to sink to the bottom with all her gear on but was able to tread water. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Ofc. Yoseline Robledo with Game and Fish thought she was going to sink to the bottom with all her gear on but was able to tread water. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Officers never know when they could end up in the water, in full gear, from accidents to water rescues. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Officers never know when they could end up in the water, in full gear, from accidents to water rescues. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
SUN CITY WEST, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

It may be swimsuit weather, but today in Sun City West the swimsuit included full body armor, a gun belt, even heavy duty work boots. 

Reuben Gonzales, state watercraft investigator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, says it is all part of an intensive training course for public safety officers.

“We have 14 agencies around the state that have some sort of waterside responsibility,” said Gonzales.

As part of that, the officers learn boating rules, regulations and basic water safety. But the course at Beardsley Aquatic Center is more intense, says Gonzales as officers dive into the pool behind him.

“Actually, all of them are wearing body armor. Their gun belts are weighted, so now they have to be able to tread water for three minutes and that is part of the course,” said Gonzales.

Ofc. Yoseline Robledo with Game and Fish says she did not really think too much about water safety when she first signed up but quickly realized this kind of training would be essential.

“We are here for Arizona’s wildlife and for the people of Arizona, to get the best training is absolutely critical,” she says.  

Marshal Joe Patterson from Patagonia, says he knew water training would be essential, and didn’t hesitate to sign up for the course. 

“We work right near the lake, so we go and assist state parks and Game and Fish," Patterson said.

Gonzales says officers never know when they could end up in the water, in full gear, from accidents to water rescues.

“It happens all the time,” he says. “It happened to me four years ago. I was involved in a boat accident. The boat flipped over and I was ejected and I was in the water. “ 

To make sure these officers are mentally and physically ready, they went in full suited.

“They are here to practice those things,” says Gonzales, “The controlled breathing, the rescue breathing for themselves. They are not going to be any good if they can’t control themselves when they are out there trying to save someone potentially drowning.”

For Patterson, that meant full gear right down to his heavy duty work boots.

“I wore all of my gear. I wore my boots and everything because that is what I am going to wear when I am out on the water or out on patrol or anything else and if I have to go into the water, this is what I will be wearing,” Patterson said.

He says he did not have any trepidation diving in, and neither did Robledo, who says she was mentally ready for whatever happened.

“To be completely honest, the moment I put on all of that gear I thought I was going to sink right to the bottom. So coming in with that mindset, I thought I might sink, but we are taught to stay calm and as soon as I jumped in, I didn’t sink. I treaded water and tried to stay calm,” Robledo said.

So while it was a little intimidating, both Patterson and Robledo say a love for the job wins out.

“You don’t have time to think about yourself,” says Patterson. “It is the knowledge of being able to actually get in there and do it and know that, hey, I can do this. I can survive.”

"It is mentally, physically and emotionally challenging,” added Robledo. “But if you have the passion, you can get through anything.”

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