PUERTO CASTILLO NAVAL BASE, Honduras – Honduran navy divers stationed at Puerto Castillo Naval Base fought their way through Course 17 today, literally. The course is designed to build confidence between pairs of divers who find themselves stuck within a riptide or other strong underwater current and have only one air tank to share.
The divers are given their instructions on the pier before they jump into the water. There will be no time for instructions or guidance once the exercise begins.
The scenario is explained to them: they will jump into the water and one of them will be caught in a strong current. This current will rip that diver’s equipment from him and the other diver will have to share his air regulator with him. They must stay submerged for ten minutes and all this time there will be four instructors constantly pulling them lower into the water, rolling them, pulling them apart and other forms of harassment to separate, disorient and anger them.
The instructors represent the current and give no quarter during the exercise. The divers must learn to trust, depend upon and watch out for each other. This is the buddy system in action and this training could very well save these diver’s lives should they find themselves in an actual riptide.
The diver’s jump into fifteen feet of water and wait for their instructor, retired Admiral F. Gonzales to join them before submerging for the test.
Gonzales signals the time keeper on the pier, and three other instructors and he attack the students like piranhas in a feeding frenzy.
The water froths and bubbles as the students are turned, twisted and even flipped to disorient them.
A swim fin flies through the air as the instructors remove the gear of one of the divers.
Another fin, a face mask, and finally, a complete air tank is removed from the pair.
The two share the one regulator between them and find that the only way to stick together is to wrap their arms and legs around each. The instructors continue to roll them, but entangled like this allows them to focus more on sharing their air now instead of worrying about the disorienting effects of the ‘current’.
The instructors not only try to separate the divers, but they must also constantly pull them back to the bottom as their natural buoyancy lifts them to the surface.
The two divers observed for this course pass the exercise with a total submerged time of ten minutes, twelve seconds, but are reprimanded for a little too much aggressiveness over who had the air regulator and for how long he had it.
They are allowed to stay surfaced for a bit longer before having to retrieve the gear that was stripped of them and put it back on underwater.
This is mild compared to what they have just gone through, and when the two finally are able to leave the water, they are physically exhausted.
Today they have learned how to survive in one of the most fearful events that the sea can put them in and are well on their way to becoming certified combat divers.