From Joint Task Force - Guantanamo
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – Finally, after long hours of class preparation, studying for exams consisting of physics and physiology, and completing at least 100 open-water dives, four Joint Task Force Guantanamo personnel have become certified as open-water scuba instructors for U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay's Reef Raiders Club.
"[Reef Raiders'] got new blood in, new concepts, new ideas and new programs to work with," said Bill Keenan, co-president of Reef Raiders. "Everyone has a slightly different view about how things work and they bring a fresh start to the system."
It is through Professional Association of Diving Instructors, the world's leading scuba diving training organization, that Reef Raiders has been able to offer scuba classes to all interested Guantanamo residents. Currently, PADI has been changing their training material as technology develops.
"It's beneficial to all of us because the older instructors learn from the newer instructors with the new technology coming out," said Keenan. "Since then, we've upgraded some of the teaching we provide and materials that we've used because of that."
The new scuba instructors are Shane Lauritzen, Sarah Cleveland, Jeffery Agan, and Kevin. The group began working together during the Instructor Development Course; however, none of them began their diving at the same time.
"I started diving in college when I took it as an elective with some friends," said Cleveland.
Kevin commented, "When I first got here, some friends of mine were already diving. They said I should start diving and I did and I fell in love with it."
Additionally, as each diver became more and more passionate in diving, their reasons for becoming an instructor were different as well.
For Lauritzen, it was being able to teach his friends and family while having a cool retirement job lined up that made him want to become an instructor. For Kevin, it was getting people from work interested in diving while they asked him questions and advice.
"They would have me teach them different things. That was pretty rewarding," said Kevin. "That was what made me decide I wanted to get into instructing."
The path to becoming certified is not simple or cheap and, for these instructors, many hours were required on a weekly basis.
"I spent between 20 to 30 hours per week on classroom work and teaching basic skills during confined water dives in the pool and open water dives," said Lauritzen.
Cleveland added, "Many JTF Troopers have extremely unique work hours that did not fit in the class schedules. It can take an early morning dive, an after work dive, or a dive on a holiday, but I am usually trying to help someone complete a certification when I am not at work myself."
The instructors have been certified since October and have shown their knowledge and effectively used their learning background in scuba diving to teach new divers.
"I've already had some reviews and comments back from students and they seem to be very, very happy with their scuba experience," said Keenan. "Many are excited and plan to move on with additional courses and are looking forward to working with [the instructors] again."
The future path for these new instructors varies greatly as some plan to stay here longer while others only have a short time left on island. However, each plans to continue to teach wherever life takes them.
"These new instructors are just as good as any teachers that I've seen out there, said Keenan. "They'll do Guantanamo Bay proud."