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 certifications.
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.
“As 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 certified.
“From swimming to scuba diving here, this has been monumental, as far as my recovery has gone,” Payne said.
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 diver.
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 bring warriors.”
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.”
Learn more about Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba.
By U.S. Army Spc. Amber Bohlman
Provided through DVIDS
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