FORT LEONARD WOOD – Summer may still seem a long way off, but Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation is working now to train lifeguards to make sure the installation’s summer swimmers are safe.

The first of four lifeguard-certification courses is set to begin with a pre-test from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Davidson Fitness Center indoor pool. Those who pass the pre-test will go on to attend classes from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 8, 9, 15 and 16, after which graduates will be American-Red-Cross-certified lifeguards.

Offering the winter courses is “extremely important” to ensure there are enough lifeguards on post and in the surrounding area, according to Nikki Stone, lead lifeguard at DFC and assistant manager of the Rec Plex, which contains Wallace Outdoor Pool.

“Every year, we lose a good chunk of our summer lifeguards,” Stone said. “(The winter courses) are beneficial to us, because we can see everyone’s abilities and see who are the best candidates. It’s also important to the community because, including myself, Fort Leonard Wood has the only two lifeguards certified to train in this area — otherwise, they would have to go to either Rolla or Lebanon. For the students, it’s also well worth the money, because graduates are Red Cross certified, which is a national certification that they can apply anywhere that requires a lifeguard certification.”

Course fees are $225 for military service members and $275 for civilians, with a $115 nonrefundable deposit.

Participants must be at least 15 years old to take the course. It’s also recommended that they be strong swimmers and prepared for a physically demanding pre-test.

“Right off the bat, we do a pre-course swim, which is a 300-meter swim nonstop, using a combination of breaststroke and freestyle,” Stone said. “Right after that, we do a recovery dive, where we place a 10-pound brick anywhere from 10 to 14 feet deep. They have to dive in, retrieve the brick and swim back with no arms used. It’s a timed event.”

Stone said the final part of the pre-test includes a 2-minute session where students tread water without using their hands.

“Once they pass the pre-test, we will have four days of all-day training, which is a combination of classroom and in-the-water work,” Stone continued. “It’s pretty physically demanding, but we teach them everything they need to know to get all their first aid, CPR and (Automated External Defibrillator) training completed. Once they finish the coursework, to graduate, they have to pass an in-water scenario test and two written tests. Once they pass those tests, we turn those scores in for their certificates through the American Red Cross.”

Stone added that FMWR will hire several lifeguard positions prior to the summer season through the government’s hiring site, USAJOBS.gov

Meanwhile, three future rounds of classes are scheduled in the coming months, with pre-tests scheduled for March 6, April 3 and April 17. The registration deadline for each class is two days prior to the pre-test.

Classes are open to the public.

Participants can register in person at the DFC indoor pool or call 573.596.2810 for more information. The registration deadline for the first course is Wednesday.

“They can come by with their deposit, and we will get them signed up and put on the list,” Stone said. “I’d just like (participants) to know that the classes are thorough and that we take a great amount of pride in the classes taught here.”