The navy has many jobs that call upon enlisted men and women to use their
scuba diving skills. Some divers perform maintenance on ships, doing everything
from underwater welding to painting.
Combat divers are field engineers whose diving skills aid in assignments
such as building bridges. And construction divers travel throughout the world
constructing and repairing underwater facilities such as pipelines and sensor
Of course, if you're hoping to enlist in the navy one week and begin
scuba diving lessons the next, you'll probably be disappointed. Few recruits
start their naval career as a diver.
Most are initially trained in a non-diving related trade, and then apply
later to acquire a secondary trade that requires diving skills. A ship's
engineer may double as an underwater welder, for example.
The trade the recruit was originally hired to perform is still considered
to be their primary trade. It's a little different for members of the
SEALs -- participation in that group is a full-time job.
But whether you're performing underwater espionage in the Middle East
or scraping barnacles from a ship off the California coastline, diving is
dangerous work. "There's all the regular hazards of diving," says Chief
Petty Officer Iryll Jones.
"You have to worry about things like hypothermia and the bends. Divers
also have to worry about arterial gas embolisms."
Long hours and strenuous working conditions are part of the job. Navy divers
are often away at sea for months at a time. And there's no such thing
as a 9-to-5 workday when you're trying to defuse a bomb or finish a repair
job before the sea becomes too rough.
It's important for any diver to be physically fit, says Jones. "Working
one hour in the water is equivalent to working three hours on land, because
on land you've got gravity holding you up."
Basic math skills are also essential. Divers use math all the time to perform
calculations such as figuring out how much air they need to dive, and what
pressure the water will exert on them at any given depth.
For those who yearn to become a navy diver but prefer to spend most of
their days on dry land, another option is to join the naval reserve.