By Dave Moran
‘Walking!’ ‘Walking? – Just like normal people walking?”Yes’ came back the reply from the four smiling Navy diving
trainees.I received this response to my question: What is the best thing about successfully completing the initial Navy Diving training course which is arguably the toughest course within the military beside the SAS? I must admit I was a little shocked!’Why walking?’ I asked.I was informed, during the course if the trainees had to go anywhere around the Navy base they had to run, walking was not an option, you had to run everywhere!To be able to now walk was just wonderful!I
I was aboard HMNZS Manawanui the New Zealand Navy’s 43.9m diving tender anchored at the stunning Broken Islands area at Great Barrier Island, 90km north east of Auckland city. It was a privilege to be invited by Commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Phillip Rowe to jump on board to witness the training procedures as the new divers continued their training. Able Divers (ADR) Shaun Heaslip, Jarron Williams, Leeroy Coleman and Trevor Strickl and.
They were to experience diving from a wet bell using Surface Supplied Breathing Apparatus (SSBA) Kirby Morgan helme ts.
Following are just a few of the tasks that would be thrown at them over two weeks: Operating and maintaining the decompression chamber, wet bell preparation, crane operation for deploying and retrieving the bell, operating the divers control panel while monitoring divers’ air supply, surface to diver and diver to diver communications and bell and diver movements. Understanding decompression procedures, having the ability to handle rescuing an unconscious diver inside and outside the bell, loss of main air supply, loss of in-water oxygen, in-water oxygen poisoning, loss of communications, loss of crane’s hydraulics. Learning underwater construction techniques such as arc cutting, welding and general tools operations.
These activities would start at 7.30am and sometimes involve night diving with the operations deck being cleared away at day’s end around 9.30pm.
It is well recognized to get through the rigorous four months initial training to become a Navy diver is, for most, virtually an impossible task.
There is about an 60% drop out. I was to spend some time with four young guys who had the right stuff to tough it out and obtain their Navy Diver qualifications.
In recent years the Dive School has, beside taking recruits from within the various military services, taken civilians who have had no exposure to military life. Of the four divers, three were so called ‘Direct Entry’ (straight off the street civilians) the other had already spent four years as a trainee Navy Gunner. They all had their own personal reasons for attempting to become a Navy diver. The most common threads for them were: They were looking for
something that would give them job satisfaction and a future. A job that would require them to be physically fit and to challenge them mentally. Allow them to participate in an activity that they enjoyed; diving. They knew that the Navy training was regarded as the best and if they ever left the Navy they would have the necessary skills (AS3 level) to obtain a job in the commercial world of diving.
Having available further opportunities to be trained in many other areas/disciplines other than diving such as Improvis ed Explosives Device Disposal (IEDD) etc. To be trained to the best of your potential while being paid was also a big plus for them.
The opportunity to travel the world was fairly low on their priorities but since joining they have become aware of the travel opportunities that will be available to them. This was reinforced when I was chatting to diving supervisor/trainer, Chief Petty Officer Lance Graham who has 20 years of Navy service. In his first four years he had visited, 64 ports in 19 countries! He loves his job and the opportunity it provides him to train new divers to become part of the Navy dive squad.
To say I was impressed with what I saw over the four days I spent on board is an understatement. The work ethic, the self discipline, the commitment to work as a team, taking personal responsibility for the way you act and your relationship with fellow divers was for me a breath of fresh spring air in a world where there is so much negativity about the youth of today.
I felt, for these four young men, the main thing that they have personally achieved was self belief that they can both mentally and physically now handle anything that comes their way. The mental toughness to complete the initial course cannot be underestimated. The course is partly designed to crack you mentally – to give up – to walk away.
For young people who grab the opportunity, they can achieve anything, as long as deep down they have personal determination, tough
ness, tenacity, commitment, and passion. Attributes that most do not know exist within them – the Navy training is the key to unlocking these hidden personal talents.
I also salute the Navy and the officers, CPODR Lance Graham, CPODR Kaha Cassidy, LDR Ormsby, LDR Bill Keyworth and PO DR Richard Tangney. Kaha and Richard had returned from the world of commercial diving to help train the new divers. They had returned partly because they wanted to impart their knowledge and to also give back to the Navy some of what the Navy gave them; which was the opportunity to be the best they can be in a prof ession that challenges the best of men.
It was indeed a privilege to spend some time with these men of substance and to witness first hand what Navy training can produce. Four remarkable young men who, through hard work and determination, were living one of life’s dreams – self belief. Good on them!