More than 70 active and veteran military troops joined close to 100 members of the SCUBA industry to recently celebrate the announcement of FORCE BLUE’s inaugural deployment at an event held at The Ocean Institute, Dana Point, CA.
FORCE BLUE, the only non-profit specifically created to aid former combat divers and Special Operations veterans in their assimilation back to civilian life by giving them a new, positive mission to help the planet, recently announced its inaugural deployment with six Iraq/Afghanistan veterans. Team members will be taught how to adapt their skills to rebuild and preserve coral reefs off the coast of Grand Cayman.
“The outpouring of support we received, not just from the veteran’s community, but from the dive industry, environmentalists, artists, marine conservationists…It’s truly humbling,” stated FORCE BLUE Co-founder and Executive Director Jim Ritterhoff. “People came because they believe in our mission and want to play a part in its success.”
Military veterans interacted with SCUBA professionals while they enjoyed live performances by country music star Cliff Cody and the eclectic music of singer, songwriter and US Recon Marine Brandon Mills; Rock-n-Roll icon, Ian Astbury of The Cult, his wife, Black Ryder lead singer Aimee Nash and IMAX Head of Content Jamie McCabe were just a few of the notable guests who attended the 3-hour event.
Attendees learned more about FORCE BLUE’s origin and mission from co-founders Jim Ritterhoff, Keith Sahm and U.S. Recon Marine Master Sgt. Rudy Reyes.
Drew Richardson, President and CEO of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Worldwide, spoke of the organization’s commitment to support FORCE BLUE and his belief in the team’s mission. He presented a $2,500 check to FORCE BLUE co-founders to be put toward its initial deployment.
National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) Worldwide, Scuba Diving International (SDI), SCUBAPRO, Diver’s Alert Network (DAN), Oakley, Ritz-Carlton luxury hotels, jetBlue, Mission Volant, SUUNTO and Wyland Galleries donated more than 40 items to the silent auction to alleviate the cost of the video production of the inaugural dive.
While dining on a mouth-watering menu of hors d’oeuvres including a delicious gourmet sausage tasting by Mad Mike, a fellow veteran and his company Mad Mike’s American Gourmet Inc., attendees also had the exclusive opportunity to meet veteran military members of the first FORCE BLUE dive team including: U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Geoff Reeves and FORCE BLUE co-founder U.S. Recon Marine Master Sgt. Rudy Reyes.
“Tonight was a special night for FORCE BLUE. The event provided us the opportunity to connect face-to-face with fellow military troops so they can learn of this great opportunity to still have an important mission in civilian life,” Sgt. Rudy Reyes said. “It also reaffirmed the potential we have to rally people behind our cause — helping our veterans as they help the planet. One team. One fight.”
FORCE BLUE gives former military trained combat divers and veterans of Special Operations Forces an important new mission: to experience and explore one of the most critically endangered ecosystems on the planet–and to adapt their training and teamwork to rebuild the fragile ecosystem and aid in its protection. FORCE BLUE teaches veterans: their skills and training are transferable and can still make a positive difference, camaraderie does exist after combat and helping can be the antidote to harming. FORCE BLUE welcomes the support of people and organizations who see the value in this unique mission and want to play a part in its success. Visit www.forceblueteam.org to learn more.
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Jump into… A career in diving
A career in doing something that you love… I have heard so many times that diving is just a hobby and not a career. A career by definition is ‘an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.’
I started diving at the age of 17. I became a PADI Divemaster and from this point progressed to an Open Water instructor, to Staff Instructor, to Master Instructor, to Course Director. Surely by definition this is a career path? The only difference (in some cases) that would dispute this matter… the controversial subject of pay!
I am 100% not going to say that no dive centres in the world pay. I myself do, and I know others that do, too. It does however seem to have become very much the norm, that the ‘because I enjoy it’ philosophy has eradicated the UK diving career path for years. Divers volunteering their help for little or no reward (again… not everyone before you stop reading). To eventually realising, that they are doing hard work, for not much to gain… even paying to carry on doing courses, and to become an instructor to work for that centre. What is all that about?!
If you are the type of person to be happy with that, that is completely fine, so long as you are happy. I was at one point… and then realised that I had invested a lot of my time and money, and when this realisation hit, started to feel undervalued. The instructor I was ‘working for’, for a free hot chocolate at the end of the day, would sit in the cafe whilst I taught in the 3 degree waters in the middle of winter. Obviously the paying customer had booked his course through this person and not me… I was happy with a hot chocolate and having fun… but aren’t all of the best careers the ones that we do not see as work. They aren’t all volunteer roles.
Those of you looking for a career in diving, don’t be put off. There are places that you can work, and a career in diving can literally take you all across the world. Those saying that there is no money in diving… ignore those guys too. There is. Obviously working for free is never going to get you there, but if you want to do it, then do it. There are plenty of places not only looking to employ scuba instructors, there are other jobs at aquariums, conservation roles, the Navy and many others for you to take a look at.
There are also grants to look at for education, the open water instructor course, or anything else after that is not exactly cheap… but still nonetheless worthwhile.
So, please do not take away the fact of diving being a career. It is. The only thing that I will leave you with (dropping a bombshell), is that if we accept the fact of ‘working for free’ then it will never change and still be hard to make a career in diving… I mean, of course there is limited need when there is still the alternate option for a business to have free labour.
Clare began Duttons Divers at just 19 years old and a short while later became one of the world’s youngest PADI Course Directors. Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com
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