For many of the service members in attendance, it would be their first time diving underwater, but for all of them it was completely free of charge.
The clinic, held on Sept. 16, was sponsored and run by a non-profit organization that works with wounded warriors across the country. The short, two hour course lets service members get their “feet wet” with the basics of SCUBA.
“We give them enough of a briefing to keep them safe and comfortable underwater,” said (retired) Capt. and Executive Director for the non-profit organization, Jeffrey Currer. “We get them in their gear and take them on a fun dive in the pool. We let them swim around, throw toy torpedoes and feel what it’s like to be weightless. It’s just a fantastic experience.”
The organization has worked with wounded, ill or injured service members, with a variety of both mental and physical disabilities, who have benefitted tremendously from participating in the program.
“The reason why we’re doing this is the therapeutic value,” said Currer. “We have a young lady, who we’re still working with right now. Anxiety is her primary issue and [her doctors] were worried about her panicking under water, so we worked with them and got her through a snorkeling session. She did great and wanted to do more, so we went back to the doctor and they approved. Just this weekend, she completed her confined water training and she’s ready to move to her open water training.
“We have not cured her condition. She’s just given herself confidence and we’ve facilitated it. I’m sure she’ll always be fighting these anxieties, but now she’s got more tools to make herself a more functioning, contributing member of society and she feels much better about herself because of that.”
At NSAB, participants in the clinic emerged from the pool after being submerged for nearly 30 minutes and seemed enthusiastic to continue. Col. Floyd Burgher described the course as “Challenging and fun,” while Staff Sgt. Jonathan Earley exclaimed “I definitely want to get certified.”
Service members with physical disabilities are encouraged to enroll in the free Soldiers Undergoing Disabilities SCUBA program. “They work primarily with the amputee section,” said Currer. “We can handle [amputee divers], but they do a great job over there.”
Those who are interested in learning how to SCUBA dive, but don’t qualify for the free diving course are eligible for a number of alternatives available at NSAB. For non-injured active duty service members, dependents, retired military reservists, contractors as well as Department of Defense and National Institute of Health employees, Bryan Jackson, the fitness and aquatics manager for Morale Welfare and Recreation, is holding a SCUBA diving class starting Oct 8. The classes are not free, but will include the same training and open water certification.
In response to questions about future clinics specific to wounded warriors at NSAB, Bryan said, “I have no doubt this will be something we want to continue.”
The next Introduction to Scuba clinic will be held Nov. 21. To register, contact NSAB Adaptive Sports program coordinator Amanda Kelley, at 301-400-2521.
For any of the other above-mentioned programs contact Jackson at 301-295-0031.