Training for training – getting divers ready

AB Thomas Davis does pushups

AB Thomas Davis does pushups following a mile long swim in Esquimalt Harbour.

Standing along the edge of a 10-foot pier, finned feet dangling over the briny water, a group of HMCS Winnipeg sailors prepare to jump.
They’re prospective Ship’s Team Divers, and if they’re going to make the cut they’re going to have to get their feet wet.

“The Ship’s Team Diver qualification course has something like a 50 per cent fail rate. It’s hugely physically demanding,” says PO2 Clint Mack, Senior Diver in HMCS Winnipeg. “I wanted to give Winnipeg sailors looking to become a diver a chance to prepare for what is a truly gruelling course.”

To do this, PO2 Mack takes Winnipeg sailors interested in the Ship’s Team Diver course out to the Fleet Dive Unit up to twice a week for specialized training.

Prospective divers, along with current team divers, go through rigorous callisthenics such as running, jumping jacks, or wind sprints. PO2 Mack says intermingling prospective divers with current team members promotes a team cohesiveness not always found.

“As Ship’s Team Divers we are trained to save lives and work under water while manipulating extremely heavy gear, so a higher level of physical fitness is required of our divers,” he says. “The training I have instigated promotes team cohesiveness, camaraderie, and fitness between the new divers and the experienced ones.  A physically fit team will do the job faster safely.”

Part of the training also involves the traditional one mile swim around the harbour, in which divers swim a predetermined coursed around a series of floating checkpoints, each attempting to get a better time than the last.

“This is a swim that Clearance Divers do all the time, and they get very competitive about it,” say PO2 Mack. “I want these guys to have a firm grasp on how to swim it properly, so when the time comes to take the qualification course they can get the best time possible.”

The waterborne race around the harbour is then immediately followed by a more brutal, wetter version of the “burpy.”

“They have to jump in the water at the same time, pop up, pull themselves back onto the pier, and then do push ups. Then they do it about 15 more times,” says PO2 Mack. “It’s tough, but this is the kind of thing they’ll be doing when they take the qualification course. I’m just trying to get them ready.”

AB Thomas Davis, a Naval Electronic Senor Operator (NESOP) in Winnipeg, says PO2 Mack’s pre-training training has helped him get a handle on what will be needed from him as a diver.

“I always kind of knew it would be hard on the body, but I’ve never worked this hard in my life,” he says. “The swim alone is hard enough, but the workouts you have to do after puts it right over the edge. It’s tough, but I know every day I train like this I’m getting better.”

While many sailors go into the qualification course at a base level of fitness, AB Thomas says PO2 Mack’s training is giving him an advantage.

“Not many people train like this before the course,” he says. “I’ll be doing this training until I take the course in September, and I’ll have a real advantage.”

-Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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