Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba recently made their ninth
appearance at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba during a
week in February 2015 ... giving seven Wounded Warriors the
opportunity to spend nine days in the surrounding tropical waters
diving and the chance to work toward advancement in different diving
Retired Army Sgt. Jared Lemon enters the water at Cuzco Beach with six other disabled veterans before their second dive on day four of a seven day trip with Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba, a program that supports wounded warriors with scuba diving and host events around the world, on Feb. 15,
2015 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Rick Hoppe)
John W. Thompson, a retired Army National Guard Soldier
and SUDS president, found the program Feb. 27, 2007, at
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
soon as I walked into Walter Reed, I saw some pretty
horrific injuries, and I knew at that moment I wanted to get
involved. But, I didn't really know how,” Thompson said.
From there he came up with a program that focuses on the
rehabilitation process of Wounded Warriors in an aquatic
environment through a form of aquatic therapy – diving.
The program welcomes service members from the three
primary military hospitals: Walter Reed National Military
Medical Center, Naval Medical Center San Diego and San
Antonio Military Medical Center.
The service members
get cleared by their medical physicians and are trained by
the SUDS staff to receive their diving certifications
through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
Timothy Payne, SUDS participant and retired Army staff
sergeant from East Amherst, New York, said he spent about a
month getting trained up in scuba diving after all of his
training was completed he traveled to Venezuela to get
“From swimming to scuba diving here, this
has been monumental, as far as my recovery has gone,” Payne
Once they begin the certification process, each
service member is given the chance to travel to different
locations to dive in various tropical environments to
complete their certification, dive in a new environment or
work toward a specialized certification, for example rescue
Thompson said that retired Army Staff Sgt.
Jace A. Badia has been diving with the SUDS program for many
years now and completed his rescue swimmer diving course
during this trip to GTMO.
“We go all over the place.
We go to Hawaii, Puerto Rico and all different locations,
but Guantanamo is kind of our signature trip,” Thompson
said. “We just have so much support here on the island and
at the naval base that this is just a great venue for us to
Thompson said that he could always
count on GTMO to give SUDS a warm welcome and accept the
Wounded Warriors with open arms.
“This is a very cost
effective place for SUDS to come and is a place that I knew
we could get a lot of support from,” Thompson said. ”We've
been here nine times, that's more than any other location
that we've been to.”
about Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba.
By U.S. Army Spc. Amber Bohlman
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