Diving into the heart of the community

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Sabrina Clarke

Petty Officer 1st Class Kyle Johnson, a Sector New York Engineering Detachment member, finishes a helmet dive during a community project called, Warriors with Disabilities, at Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, June 1, 2017. Monmouth County Sheriff’s Maritime Emergency Response Team along with the Handicapped Scuba Diving Alliance (HSDA) partnered with the Coast Guard and various local agencies, creating a joint team uniting the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to train for emergency responses. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sabrina Clarke.

Petty Officer 1st Class Kyle Johnson, a Sector New York Engineering Detachment member, finishes a helmet dive during a community project called, Warriors with Disabilities, at Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, June 1, 2017. Monmouth County Sheriff’s Maritime Emergency Response Team along with the Handicapped Scuba Diving Alliance (HSDA) partnered with the Coast Guard and various local agencies, creating a joint team uniting the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to train for emergency responses. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sabrina Clarke.

As local fishermen strolled by Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, they slowed down to catch a glimpse of all the commotion on the beach. Various local first responders could be seen unloading their small boats from their trailers, unpacking bags of medical equipment, and staging dive flags in the water near the shoreline.

A Coast Guard Sandy Hook crew walked down the pier and started the engines of a 47-foot Motor Life Boat. The crew began their safety round of the vessel as they prepared the deck to get underway from the dock.

Several gentlemen walked down the pier and eagerly waited for their signal to board the Coast Guard small boat. As they climbed aboard, they were greeted and briefed on todays mission: “Warriors with Disabilities Dive Project.”

A diver walks into the water during a community project called Warriors with Disabilities at Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, June 1, 2017. Monmouth County Sheriff’s Maritime Emergency Response Team along with the Handicapped Scuba Diving Alliance (HSDA) partnered with the Coast Guard and various local agencies, creating a joint team uniting the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to train for emergency responses. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sabrina Clarke.

A diver walks into the water during a community project called Warriors with Disabilities at Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, June 1, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sabrina Clarke.

Monmouth County Sheriff’s Maritime Emergency Response Team (MERT) along with the Handicapped Scuba Diving Alliance (HSDA) partnered with the Coast Guard and various local agencies, creating a joint team uniting the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to train for emergency responses on June 1, 2017.

“This annual training evolution allows law enforcement and fire departments in the area to meet and understand each others’ roles and missions,” said Bill Fancher, dive commander, Monmouth County, New Jersey, MERT. “We train together so when we respond to different cases, we already know how each department can respond. We are very fortunate that our training involves working with the HSDA and our wounded veterans.”

The training event kicked off by briefing the participants on the equipment. After the introduction, the trainees headed to the medical technician for medical approval and suited up shortly thereafter.

The trainees consisted of 16 disabled veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project as well as local fire and police departments. The training included a supervised hard hat dive, water rescue operations, Coast Guard small boat and seamanship training.

While underway on the Coast Guard small boat, the trainees performed a man overboard and person in the water recovery drill. The trainees were also given the opportunity to learn about seamanship and boat driving tactics.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Wright teaches retired Col. Floyd Burgher, a Wounded Warrior Project member, how to operate a 47-foot Motor Life Boat near Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, June 1, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sabrina Clarke.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Wright teaches retired Col. Floyd Burgher, a Wounded Warrior Project member, how to operate a 47-foot Motor Life Boat near Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, June 1, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sabrina Clarke.

“It was very humbling to see how hard they work to become so good at what they do,” said retired Col. Floyd Burgher. “As a soldier, it was a very unique and thrilling experience for me to be on the helm of a Coast Guard boat.”

During the hard hat helmet dive, trainees were given the opportunity to don the helmet and dive with a certified diver in Sandy Hook Bay. The helmet seals the diver’s head from the water allowing the diver to see clearly, and provides the diver with oxygen and voice communications with the surface and trainers underway.

The day concluded with a flyover from a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Atlantic City and a lunch prepared by Station Sandy Hook culinary specialists.

“We have a great partnership with the local agencies and work together in keeping boaters safe on the water,” said Petty Officer 1st class Thomas Frantz, a crewmember from Station Sandy Hook. “Seeing everyone come out to support our veterans and participate in this training event really showcases our tight-knit community.”

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