In July 2014 SDI worked to provide IT Bob Collins with Open Water codes for his Warrior Transition Unit Scuba Camp at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The camp saw over 30 soldiers participate in Scuba Discovery and some of those warriors completed their confined water skills. These soldiers suffer from various wounds; from PTSD; bullet/shrapnel; back, hip, leg injuries; and some with TBI’s.
Over the following months and into 2015 Bob worked with SDI Instructors from 5 states by conducting two SDI Scubility Courses resulting in 12 graduates.
In March of 2015 the Georgia Aquarium extended an invitation for soldiers of the Ft. Stewart WTU to come and snorkel. Many jumped at the chance, and while they were there found that scuba diving was also possible for them, right there at one of the world’s leading facilities. A renewed sense of urgency for scuba certification was born from the trip.
Bob was contacted again by Ms. Jenn H. the Physical Therapist at the WTU and asked if there was any way that Bob could help 12 soldiers achieve their goal. The major problem was – there was no funding available to pay for training services.
Bob spoke to the owners of Divers Supply about the problem and was given the go ahead to provide classroom, pool and equipment for this effort at no charge to the soldiers. Bob then contacted some of the Instructor graduates of the Scubility courses, who had now formed a group called the “Purple Fins Project” and four of them committed to provide confined and open water instruction at no charge.
Over the following months the soldiers worked on their SDI on-line training and were ready for their confined water training at the Divers Supply Jacksonville store. Purple Fins Instructors worked hard to qualify the new divers and a special thanks to Instructor Kim Stiles for her special efforts with one of the more severe PTSD Cases.
There were ten that completed the skills to move on to Open Water dives. Two weeks later the group traveled from Fort Stewart to Blue Grotto – the site of their two days of open water dives. Again Divers Supply provided complete equipment for this effort at no charge.
On the first day the student divers were met by IT Bob Collins and SDI OWSI’s Tracie Crawshaw, Sheila Noles, Mike Wilkins, and Bobby Styles who had driven down from Atlanta after a 48 hour shift at the Fire Department where he is an EMT. The group was broken into two groups with special consideration of medical conditions. After extensive dive briefings, equipment assemblies and pre-dive safety checks the groups rotated through their dives one and two. The Purple Fins Instructors met with each diver for debrief after every dive to review skills accomplishment and their feelings about the dive. At the end of the day big smiles were seen on all the faces and most, including the instructors, were ready for a nap.
Day two dawned grey and nasty but the soldiers were ready to rock and roll for their dives 3 and 4. IT Bob reviewed the overall efforts and the four instructors covered the skills to be preformed. Everyone geared up and group two hit the water first due to one soldier needing to have his service dog on hand. The two dives went smoothly with just a couple of hiccups and in the end there were 10 very proud new SDI Open Water Diver Heroes standing to.
As paper work and dive logs were completed soldiers wrote a few kind words on one of Bob’s Purple Fins. Soldiers stood apart and individually quietly thanked the instructors that had given so much of their time and themselves. A folded flag was presented to Blue Grotto for their hosting the group of proud soldiers.
Another group of soldiers is ready to start and a group of 12 Navy/Marines from NAS Jax is on schedule to begin Scuba Discovery.
To join the ranks of SDI’s Scubility Instructors contact HQ for the next session or to organize a Scubility class in your area. To join the “Purple Fins Project” visit their Facebook page or contact IT Bob Collins.