Marine Swims 59 Miles In 3 Weeks, Becomes First Amputee To Graduate Combat Instructor Water Survival Course

Adam Jacks is a Staff Sergeant with the US Marines who just completed the rigorous Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival course, which requires Marines to swim a cumulative 59 miles over the course of 3 weeks. Staff Sergeant Jacks is also an amputee, losing his right leg from his mid-thigh down back in 2011.

Staff Sgt. Adam Jacks completed the course (average 2.8 miles a day swimming) to become the first ever amputee to successfully pass. He began the course with 8 fellow Marines, but of the 9 who sought to complete the training only 6 were able to pass the test.

Known as an extremely physically fit solider, Staff Sgt. Adam Jacks encountered unforeseen obstacles after jumping into the pool for training, not least of which was a constant sense of vertigo. Missing half of one leg caused his body to constantly rotate in the pool, throwing off his sense of balance, leading to the oft debilitating sense of vertigo. reports on Staff Sgt. Adam Jacks’ incredible story:

The Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival course is a grueling training evolution that requires Marines to swim a total of 59 miles over three weeks. The course that graduated on Nov. 25 started with nine participants, but only six were able to complete the challenge. One of those six had the deck stacked against him from the beginning but overcame adversity and graduated with his classmates.

Staff Sgt. Adam Jacks, company gunnery sergeant for Headquarters and Service Company at The Basic School, is a motivated, extremely fit, infantry Marine who said he quickly volunteered to attend the course when approached by the chief instructor trainer, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Marshall. The fact that Jacks’s right leg was amputated at the mid-thigh in 2011 did not faze either Marine.

Jacks, a native of Newark, Ohio, was serving in Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, located in Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, when he stepped on a pressure plate on April 3, 2011, and was hit by an improvised explosive device blast. Among other injuries, Jacks suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost 2/3 of his right leg.

Though he could have easily been medically retired, Jacks said he “fought pretty hard to stay in” on active duty, feeling he had much more to contribute to the Marine Corps. “Why I wanted to stay in is pretty simple: I wasn’t ready to hang up the uniform and turn the page into a new chapter. I felt that I had a lot of fight left in me, and that I could help shape the Marine Corps into this new age style of fighting, even with half of a leg, and to show Marines of all ranks and ages that it still can be done.”

Jacks requested to be placed in an expanded permanent limited duty status, something that can only be granted by the commandant of the Marine Corps. Jacks said he met the commandant, Gen. James Amos at the time, and Amos said to him “If you want to stay in, I won’t push you out.” After eight to nine months of evaluations and paperwork, Jacks was granted permission to continue serving on active duty.

Jacks said he has about “20 different legs, and each has a unique purpose.” He has one for everyday activities, one for patrolling, and one for running, among others. “If I don’t have one that works well for the situation, that will set me up for failure,” Jacks said. He also has one prosthetic decorated with a blood stripe and some Marine graphics that he actually doesn’t like to wear much because he doesn’t want to damage it. What he lacked before starting the course, however, was a leg that would help him swim.

Because of the asymmetry in his body, Jacks said at first he would roll in the water, and “the first week [of the MCIWS course] was pretty hellacious because I had to relearn how to swim properly and use my upper body.”

He recounted having to fight feelings of vertigo from the lack of balance. Marshall said he and Jacks worked together to improvise a buoyant prosthetic that would enable him to stay at a level position in the water. Even with the buoyant leg, Jacks had to put in dozens of extra training hours to become more proficient, frequently staying at the pool until 6:30 or 7:00 p.m., up to two hours after the other students had left for the day.

You can read the full inspiring story of Staff Sgt. Adam Jacks HERE on

If you’re not sitting there thinking ‘what the hell have I done today?’ then I don’t know what will motivate you! After reading his amazing story of perseverance I’m inclined to hop in the pool and tell a lifeguard I plan on swimming until my body gives out, so just keep an eye on me. Truly incredible stuff.


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