Today, we explore Diving Perspective from a Former Defence Force Dive Officer
By Petty Officer Monique Deveaux
Retired Lieutenant Commander Ricardo Barry, a former member of the RBDF Dive Team and a Dive Officer, recalls his experience of participating in the first military dive course as, “pushing my body beyond the physical point of exertion”. Despite being athletically inclined, Barry found the dive training intense, but he maintains that one had to be ‘top-notched’ to pass, because the standards were high. As an Infantry Commando, he is used to pushing his body beyond its physical limits. With diving likened to second nature to him, Barry didn’t have to concentrate on his breathing. Because divers have to operate in an environment that’s not natural for them, breathing requires divers to put extra pressure on their bodies, so they must be physically fit.
To be a military diver, the physical requirements are but the tip of the iceberg. There are other aspects such as the mechanical, scientific, and medical side of this craft that a person must be proficient. Additionally, there are the inherent risks associated with diving at different depths of water in which the environment can change at a moment’s notice. If a diver miscalculates at the end of a diving exercise, the ascend to the surface can be fatal. Another aspect of a military diver is being knowledgeable in basic emergency medical skills. This is a skill a diver can utilize beyond the dive platform.
Another important facet of diving is being able to assess the environment, which is achieved in several ways. One such way is to train the diver, outside of the normal routine. The annual physical fitness assessment in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force is performed where the swim segment is the final stage, and the most relaxing aspect for some. However, the dive team assessment is carried out reversely. The participant starts his or her physical assessment with a swim where the distance is determined by the instructor. This is followed by an undetermined amount number of push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. The physical aspect is completed when the diver runs a timed race.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Dive Team is committed to upholding the standard required to produce effective and efficient divers that can conduct dive operations anywhere in the world. The Force is always looking for opportunities to fortify its unit by maintaining international standards. In benchmarking its system, the Defence Force Dive Unit was afforded an opportunity to test its program.
Over the years, the Defence Force has seen the role of the dive team evolve from carrying out basic operational duties, training, and recruitment of additional military divers, thereby increasing the Force’s capabilities to respond to search and rescue responsibilities. The Force has introduced different types of divers such as combat divers. As the organization seeks to use a sustainable approach to managing talent and increasing its capacity to respond to an ever-changing maritime environment the number of military divers has increased through its diving school unit established at the military Base.
Prior to the World Cup Cricket in Jamaica in 2007, members of the region worked in a collaborative joint operation forum to discuss various ways of strengthening the security of the event. The United States Southern Command was the major facilitator in the collaborative effort of reinforcing security in the Caribbean for this event. An analysis was done in regard to security and it was found that the Caribbean region collectively lacked subsurface collaboration. As a result, the major stakeholders came together in 2006 to look at ways of improving security from a subsurface standpoint. However, The Bahamas was the only Caribbean country at the time that had an organized Military Dive Team, and to secure an event of such magnitude required a certain number of trained divers within the region. The concerns addressed in the forum would be resolved in the upcoming Tradewinds Exercise, where countries within the region work together to increase institutional capacity and regional collaboration.
The strength of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Military Dive Team would be tested and tried. As part of the forum, the Bahamas Dive Team was tasked with the responsibility of organizing, training, and implementing a strategy where divers within the Caribbean would be able to respond to an ever-changing maritime security environment. At the end of the exercise, the Bahamas Team received the General Award from Southern Command for its organization in the first Multinational Regional Dive Team.
“As a former dive officer, I’ve seen this unit grow from an unorganized group of young men to an organized body of professional military divers.” Barry proclaimed.
Throughout the years, the dive unit has continued to evolve, having experienced high and low periods. “The lowest point in my diving career was losing a member in dive training, Marine Seaman Charles Heastie. This is something that the unit will never forget, which was our lowest point. There are often other low points in a military diver career, but having to retrieve a fellow comrade’s body from the sea remains a painful memory.” Barry concluded.