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Force Blue: Giving Warriors a Cause; Giving a Cause its Warriors

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Force Blue

International non-profit organization to retrain veteran combat divers to restore coral and promote conservation; Grand Cayman to be first training site

Force Blue logoAiling reefs and the warrior spirit – a combination that could be a winning formula for Force Blue, a new non-profit that seeks to help former Special Operations veterans utilize their training and teamwork to preserve the world’s coral reefs.

A major fundraising reception in honor of these distinguished veterans and the Force Blue program will be held in Dallas, Texas on Monday, September 26, 2016. The organization’s goal is to introduce its first training class of six veterans at Sunset House Dive Resort in Grand Cayman in early 2017.

“The response to Force Blue has been astounding, and we’re honored to have the support of some very prominent people,” said Sunset House General Manager Keith Sahm who co-found the organization.

Texas real estate magnate and Earth Day Texas founder Trammel S. Crow is hosting the event in Dallas, and the guest list includes some big names from both the veteran and business communities.  Individuals expected to attend the Force Blue fundraiser include (Ret) U.S. Navy SEAL Admiral Ed Winter, (Ret.) USMC General David Garza, former Recon Marine and star of the HBO miniseries Generation Kill, Rudy Reyes, Benghazi survivor Kris “Tanto” Paronto, whose story was told in the film 13 Hours, and Chuck Pfarrer, former SEAL Team Six member and author of the NY Times bestseller, SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden.

The idea for Force Blue developed in Grand Cayman last summer during discussions at Sunset House between Sahm, Rudy Reyes and long-time friend Jim Ritterhoff.  The men were diving daily, and Sahm gave them a tour of the resort’s new coral nursery where restoration work is being done. The diving proved therapeutic for Reyes, who himself had been battling with the challenges of civilian life after multiple combat deployments.

“We all know the struggles our veterans, particularly our Special Forces veterans, face coming home after years at war,“ said Ritterhoff.  “Our thought was, if we could somehow use diving and marine conservation to give them a positive mission, we could not only help them, but the planet as well.”

Force Blue

“It’s a win win for everyone,” Sahm echoed.  Not only will Force Blue train these highly-skilled men and women how to help restore damaged reefs, but it will also teach them to be spokespeople for ocean conservation world-wide.”

“We’re giving warriors a cause and a cause its warriors,” said Reyes.

Sunset House will be base for Force Blue in Grand Cayman when the first mission is announced and team members are ready to hit the water. The warriors will be trained in coral restoration by marine science experts and they will help tend the resort’s new coral nursery. Other Cayman dive operators have committed to help with the program, as has the Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman. Sahm says ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff, who was himself severely wounded in Iraq, has expressed interested in covering the first class at Sunset House.

“Starting out, Cayman just makes the most logistical sense for us,” said Ritterhoff. “We have the contacts and support in Cayman to launch Force Blue in a powerful way.  And Cayman affords us, not only access to one of the world’s healthiest and most vibrant coral reef systems, but access to some of the world’s finest conservation minds as well.”

With the world’s coral reefs under threat by global warming, massive bleaching events, overfishing and pollution, a helping hand from America’s best is needed. The organization’s initial two-week training program will take place entirely in Cayman, but the plan calls for expanding Force Blue’s influence to different destinations around the world and bringing other teams aboard.

These valuable reinforcements are welcomed by Keith Sahm who has been fully involved in the local environmental battle to save Cayman’s reefs from destruction ahead of a planned cruise ship dock in George Town Harbour.

“It’s all about raising awareness and reaching a new audience with a message of conservation and care and our veterans are the perfect ambassadors,” said Sahm who is asking for donations to support Force Blue. “Help us.  Help vets. Help the planet. There is a lot of good that can be done by joining our team.”

The fundraising reception will be held on Monday, September 26 from 5:00 – 7:00 PM in the Pecan Room of the Old Parkland in Dallas, Texas.  For more information about Force Blue or to donate to the organization visit www.forceblueteam.org or email co-founder Keith Sahm at keith@forceblueteam.org.

About Sunset House

Sunset House/Sunset Divers has been welcoming divers to the Cayman Islands for more than 58 years. It is the only resort in the Cayman Islands, designed by divers, operated by divers, for divers. It’s also the only resort on Grand Cayman that has its own coral reef, with modern and ancient shipwrecks in shallow water right off shore. Underwater visibility on Sunset House’s reef can exceed 200 feet, and a remarkable variety of marine life to be seen there. A spectacular 9’ bronze sculpture of the mermaid Amphitrite is one of the most popular shore dive sites in the world.  The resort features 50 guest rooms, including 16 deluxe Oceanview rooms, 2 spacious suites and 3 apartments with full kitchenettes. All rooms are air-conditioned, with phones and private baths. Free Hi-Speed Wireless Internet can be accessed throughout the property and a convenient computer station is located in the lobby. SeaHarvest Restaurant offers full menus for some of the healthiest breakfasts, lunch and dinners around and is famous for its East Indian menu. My Bar a popular hangout for both locals and visitors, has been voted “Best in the Caribbean” by Caribbean Travel and Life and the Best of Cayman.  Sunset House also features an inviting seaside fresh water swimming pool.

For information or reservations:

Call Toll Free: (800) 854-4767

On Grand Cayman: 345-949-7111

Web: www.sunsethouse.com

E-mail: reservations@sunsethouse.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sunsethousecayman

Twitter: www.twitter.com/sunsethouse

News

Frontline workers honoured with free dive trip to Yap

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The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.

Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.

Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers by A. Tareg

That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.

Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”

Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.

“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.

The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.

Manta ray, Manta birostris, gliding over a cleaning station in M’il Channel, Yap, Micronesia by David Fleetham

Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”

“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi.  The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”

“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”

Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!

For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)

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It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker

This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!

The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!

But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress! 

Thanks for watching, Team!

James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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