U.S. Coast Guard Diving Program

As long as people have sailed the oceans, there have been myths of the deep. Tales of sea serpents, mermaids, and giant octopus were spun by bored or mischievous sailors intending to impress and frighten.

While less fantastic, there are a few lingering myths surrounding the Coast Guard Diving Program as well. One myth is that it is difficult for qualified applicants to receive assignments to diving units.

Nothing could be further from the truth. With the addition of new dive teams at all 13 Maritime Safety and Security Teams, the opportunities for becoming a Coast Guard diver have never been better. In the past two years, 80 percent of qualified applicants received assignments to diving units. Unfortunately, only three completed applications were received this assignment year.

Another myth is that the diving community is only open to men. The numbers seem to reinforce this myth, but the program is trying to do better. Since 1997, eight of nine female diver candidates have completed diver training. These Coast Guardsmen participated in every aspect of the intensive training regimen. One of them, Lt. J.g. Kellee Gaffey of the CGC Polar Sea, earned the Honor Person designation for graduating first in her Basic Diving Officer class.

A third myth is that diver candidates have to be olympic-caliber athletes to succeed in the physically demanding training.

In general, individuals who pass the physical fitness screening survive, if not thrive, in the daily physical training. While it would be inaccurate to call the training easy, the Coast Guard typically has an 80-85 percent graduation rate.

A final myth is that individuals need to have prior diving experience or certification to be eligible for the Coast Guard Diving Program.

While people with some kind of diving certification usually feel more comfortable and confident in the water, it is not a requirement. And sometimes, when divers are too set in their ways to accept Navy diving procedures, their experience can actually be a hindrance.

Coast Guard dive teams are assigned to buoy tenders in the 14th District, polar icebreakers and Maritime Safety and Security Teams. At these units, divers perform a variety of missions, from buoy tending in the Central Pacific to science support in the polar regions and security diving operations in ports around the country.

There are no guarantees that a completed diving application will result in orders to a diving unit, but it is well worth the effort to try.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Be a volunteer
  • E-5 or E-4 eligible for E5 (ready to take SWE)
  • Under 35 Years Old
  • Minimum special assignment requirements found in 1.E. of COMDTINST M1000.8, Military Assignments and Authorized Absences.
  • Minimum ASVAB scores - AR+WK=104 and MC=50
  • No Marks Less Than 4 In Last 6 Months
  • Secret clearance on file

A Diving Officer or Master Diver Interview is required to assess your motivation, answer your questions and ensure you fully understand the training process.

A Command Endorsement is required to assess your commitment to physical fitness, your ability to deal with stress and your overall competence.

A thorough Medical Examination is required to ensure you are medically fit for high-risk training and exposure to hyperbaric environments.

A Physical Screening Test is required to ensure you meet minimum fitness requirements necessary to effectively perform underwater. Standards are the same for all candidates regardless of age or gender.

  • Swim -- 500 yards, non-stop, using side or breast stroke -- 14 minutes
  • Rest -- 10 minutes
  • Push-ups -- 42 push-ups in 2 minutes
  • Rest -- 2 minutes
  • Sit-ups -- 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes
  • Rest -- 2 minutes
  • Pull-Ups -- 6 pull-ups, no time limit. Palms facing away from the body
  • Rest -- 10 minutes
  • Run -- 1.5 miles 12:45 time limit

A Pressure Tolerance Test is required to ensure you are able ​to successfully adapt to increased atmospheric pressure without an adverse reaction.

Training

Diver training is some of the most physically and mentally intense training available in the Coast Guard. Days begin early with morning calisthenics and lengthy runs or swims. The two primary courses utilized by the Diving Program are SCUBA Diver and Basic Diving Officer, and are taught at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center.

The first few weeks provide thorough classroom instruction on Diving Physics, Diving Medicine and SCUBA Fundamentals. After that the training moves into the pool where standard procedures are taught and reinforced. For SCUBA students the final week before graduation is spent training in open-water. After graduation, SCUBA students will spend a couple of days (depending on number of Coast Guard students in the class) on Coast Guard specific training with drysuits, full-face masks, lightweight surface-supplied diving equipment and lift bags.

For Basic Diving Officer and Deep-Sea Diving Medical Technicians, the course proceeds after SCUBA into Surface-Supplied Air Diving Procedures, Advanced Diving Medicine, Advanced Physics, Hyperbaric Chamber Operations and basic Underwater Ship's Husbandry.

Coast Guard Diving Units

Polar Icebreakers

Polar Icebreakers operate in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions, providing logistics and dedicated science support to scientific research missions. In the Arctic, the Icebreakers serve as a research platform, taking teams of scientists as far as the North Pole, through ice conditions that would make those places unreachable by standard research vessels. In the Antarctic, the Icebreakers create a channel through the ice into McMurdo Sound in order to allow cargo ships to resupply the science station with fuel, food and materials.

 

Diving Duties
Science Support. Divers provide embarked science parties on Polar Icebreakers with the ability to take still and video images and collect samples of various organisms and objects beneath polar ice.

Underwater Ships Husbandry. All diving units possess the capability to perform basic underwater tasks including running gear and hull inspections, propeller cleanings and propeller pitch calibrations.

Underwater Search and Recovery. All diving units are trained in basic search techniques and may be used to locate objects underwater.

Most units are equipped with some salvage equipment and may be able to raise large objects.

    Fourteenth District Buoy Tenders

    Buoy tenders are a multi-mission asset that maintain aids to navigation (ATON), conduct search and rescue and law enforcement. The highly mobile nature of the diving team allows for rapid response to ATON discrepancies throughout the Central and Western Pacific Ocean. With the aid of a small boat, the diving team can inspect and (if necessary) lift or reposition an aid of any size. Divers are also able to work on aids in restricted or shallow water where it is unsafe to take the cutter.

     

    Diving Duties
    AtoN Operations- Divers provide buoy tenders in the Fourteenth District the ability to conduct extensive, independent ATON operations requiring minimal support. Divers can inspect moorings, change out buoys, salvage sunken buoys and lift buoy sinkers. Most ATON diving is conducted from small boats, allowing the dive team to work ATON in shallow water where the cutter would be at risk.

    Underwater Ships Husbandry. All diving units possess the capability to perform basic underwater tasks including running gear and hull inspections, propeller cleanings and propeller pitch calibrations.

    Underwater Search and Recovery. All diving units are trained in basic search techniques and may be used to locate objects underwater. Most units are equipped with some salvage equipment and may be able to raise large objects.

      Maritime Safety and Security Teams

      Provide waterborne and shoreside anti-terrorism/force protection for strategic shipping, high-interest vessels and critical infrastructure. MSSTs are a quick response force capable of rapid, nationwide deployment via air, ground or sea transportation. Diving teams provide an underwater inspection capability for ships and port facilities.

       

      Diving Duties
      Port, Waterway and Coastal Security (PWCS). Divers provide Maritime Safety and Security Teams with the ability to detect, identify and mark underwater threats including mines and improvised explosive devices (IED) attached to piers and vessel hulls.

      Underwater Ships Husbandry. All diving units possess the capability to perform basic underwater tasks including running gear and hull inspections, propeller cleanings and propeller pitch calibrations.

      Underwater Search and Recovery. All diving units are trained in basic search techniques and may be used to locate objects underwater. Most units are equipped with some salvage equipment and may be able to raise large objects.

        For more history from the US Coast Guard History Program, please read U. S. Coast Guard Diving Program (.pdf file)