Divers christen new Navy pool

    NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY — It’s every pool kid’s dream – a 40-foot by 75-foot heated swimming pool. All it’s missing is a diving board. However the 40-foot depth, the fitting for an aquatic crane and the plans for an airlock at the bottom reveal a purpose more utilitarian than recreational.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.

    On Jan. 15, the first class from the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center splashed into the breathless work of training. For the instructors, the new facility was a welcome addition. With the floors adjustable to different depths, airlock chambers and machinery attachments the the pool has smashed open new avenues for training.

    Equally important, the new facility should break up the training logjam. The dive school has nearly tripled in size, recently. Previously, only one 12-foot-deep pool was available for the dive school, the Navy Experimental Dive Unit, special warfare developers and any of the various Army, Air Force and Marine Corps dive classes going through.

    “I want to stress this is the Joint Diver Aquatic Training Facility,” said Cdr. Timothy Richardt, NDSTC commander.

    “We put through Army divers. We train Air Force pararescue combat divers, we train Marine Corps combat divers. We train Coast Guard divers,” Richardt said. “We train all different facets of Navy diver: the Navy deep sea diver, Navy explosive ordinance diver, the Navy Seabee underwater construction diver, we put through both the basic divers and the advanced, first class divers. We also train the Navy scuba divers.”

    Richardt said the facility would be a “shot in the arm” for the school, which now moves through about 1,700 students in a year.

    The facility is still not entirely piped up. Airlocks are awaiting completion, but the trainers wasted little time in getting students in the water. Instructors drilled the pool’s inaugural class Thursday, putting the recruits through confidence training.

    Students shout gear checks before splashing as pairs into the water and moving toward an instructor. The dive instructors then send the students through gear checks, make them tread water and then pack them off to the end of the pool.

    A few are sent to the bottom to practice the gear bailout known as “ditching and donning.”

    At the bottom, in this instance the basin was at 12 feet, the students slowly peel away their fins, dive masks and air tanks before shutting off the air valve. Then, the diver begins a controlled ascent toward the surface with an instructor making sure that the whole way up the students exhale to prevent decompression sickness. The student pokes his head above the surface for only a second, before returning to the bottom and redonning his gear.

    “Underwater hazardous situations could cause you to become more fouled up or entangled … you have to be able to be relaxed,” said Chief Petty Officer Mark Cooper. “We’re not trying to take their fear away from them. We’re just trying to teach them how to stay focused in a hazardous situation.”

    Though the students were just getting started in the pool, Richardt said the instructors already had given it the once over and were looking forward to having the facility entirely finished up and put through the hoops.

    “From the perspective of a guy who started off in 1981 diving in waters that were not anywhere near as nice as this, as clear as this, as warm as this … all my years of diving, this is a real revolution,” Richardt said. “It’s just wonderful.”



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