Individual Crossings

Whenever possible, and when the degree of experience permits, streams should be forded individually for a speedier crossing. The average soldier should be able to cross most streams with mild to moderate currents and water depths of not much more than knee deep using proper techniques.

a. The individual should generally face upstream and slightly sideways, leaning slightly into the current to help maintain balance. At times, he may choose to face more sideways as this will reduce the surface area of the body against the current, thus reducing the current's overall force on the individual.

b. The feet should be shuffled along the bottom rather than lifted, with the downstream foot normally in the lead. He should take short, deliberate steps. Lunging steps and crossing the feet result in a momentary loss of balance and greatly increase the chance of a slip.

c. The individual should normally cross at a slight downstream angle so as not to fight the current. There is normally less chance of a slip when stepping off with the current as opposed to stepping off against the current.

d. The individual must constantly feel for obstacles, holes and drop-offs with the lead foot and adjust his route accordingly. If an obstacle is encountered, the feet should be placed on the upstream side of it where the turbulence is less severe and the water normally shallower.

e. To increase balance, and if available, a long ice ax, sturdy tree limb, or other staff can be used to give the individual a third point of contact (Figure 9-2). The staff should be used on the upstream side of the individual and slightly leaned upon for support. The staff should be moved first, then the feet shuffled forward to it. This allows two points of contact to be maintained with the streambed at all times. The individual still moves at a downstream angle with the downstream foot in the lead.

Figure 9-2. Individual crossing with staff.
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