Okinawa Rip Tides – Marines, Japanese Coast Guard Work to Save Drowning Airmen

 In Military

Okinawa rip tides are a frequent problem at a popular snorkeling area called Mermaid’s Grotto. On July 14, two airmen got caught in a rip tide, and three Marines from 3rd Marine Division’s Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, risked their own lives in an attempt to rescue them.

Lance Cpl. Dakota Jackson, Cpl Jeffrey Werner and Cpl Tim Brownduag were walking near Mermaid’s Grotto when they saw two heads bobbing in the 6 foot waves. The two men were caught in a rip tide.

The three Marines charged into the water to pull the men to safety, but before that could happen, they, too, were caught in the rip tide.

“It was the strongest thing I’ve ever felt in my life.” Cpl Werner

Okinawa rip tides

Getting out of a rip tide can be tricky, and not everyone survives them. The training teaches service members to swim sideways, parallel to shore.

It took Werner about 40 minutes to reach the shore, but the other 4 were still in the water. He asked for help from a Japanese man on the shore, and they contacted the Japanese Coast Guard. By the time he was off the call, LCpl Jackson reached the shore.

Werner and the Japanese man went back into the water, but the Japanese man began struggling, so Werner swam over and pulled him to shore.

Brownduag made it to shore after that, but needed medical treatment for muscle fatigue after struggling for an hour in the water. He was transported by ambulance to a Naval medical facility.

The Japanese Coast Guard was finally able to reach the two airmen, and they were taken to their base at Naha.

The three Marines were commended by their Sgt Maj for risking their lives to save others.

“These Marines were presented with a choice: Stand on the beach and hope, or take action. Using teamwork and communication, these Marines quickly developed and performed a selfless act, resulting in the best possible outcome. They perfectly … proved that Marines are always faithful.” Sgt. Maj. Spencer Scott


Generally, the rules for escaping a rip tide are:

  1. Remain calm. If you get caught in a rip current, don’t panic. …
  2. Call for help if you’re not a strong swimmer. …
  3. Float or tread water until you can swim out of the current. …
  4. Swim parallel to shore to escape the current. …
  5. Swim diagonally to the shore after you’re out of the current.

Featured photo: “U.S. Marines from Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, pose for a photo on Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan, on July 17, 2019. The Marines showed heroic actions on July 14, 2019, at Mermaid’s Gratto by attempting to save swimmers in need. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Trystan Jordan)”

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