• Scuba classes take students into deep end

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  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    Fort Leavenworth Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation concluded Scuba Diver Certification classes Aug. 20 with three students participating in four open-water dives at Beaver Lake, Ark.
    Chris Bender, an independent FMWR contractor, taught the two-part course. He said all of the students met each of the skill requirements for certification.
    “The scuba diver course concludes with an open water dive in Arkansas at Beaver Lake. Students navigate an underwater environment,” said Bender, who has 30 years of diving experience and is certified by the National Association of Underwater Instructors. “Our students completed all open-water dive evolutions, the weather was perfect for diving, and everybody had a very great time.”
    Capt. Olivia Baxter, Missouri National Guard, said her motivation to learn scuba diving was at the urging of her fiancé, Air Force Capt. Kenny Natelli, currently deployed in Afghanistan.
    “We are getting married in January and will honeymoon at the Cayman Islands,” Baxter said. “He thought it would be an interesting way for me to pass the time while he is away — and a useful skill for our trip.”
    Baxter said she was surprised by the amount of emergency and rescue instruction involved with the class. She said the class had several scenarios to confront.
    “We learned what to do if there were problems with another diver’s air supply,” Baxter said. “We also learned how to help another diver get to the surface.”
    Bender said the Scuba Diver Confined Water Block 1 covered two days of training culminating at the pool inside Harney Sports Complex. He said the Scuba Diver Open Water Block 2 concluded the course with four dives at Beaver Lake.
    “Students are required to provide specific equipment for the confined- and open-water sessions,” Bender said. “Part of the instruction and certification also includes knowing the proper use and maintenance of their equipment.”
    Bender said students were required to have a clear lens mask, a folding snorkel, fins and a waterproof flashlight for night dives. He said the course provides weights and weight belts.
    The class begins with a self-paced classroom portion online. Scuba Diver, Advanced Scuba, Rescue Diver and Master Diver classes each cost $250. The open-water training has an additional fee based upon the required number of dives for each course.
    Matt Price, sports, fitness and aquatics director, said instruction began with a patron inquiry five years ago. He said a contractor was selected and the program continues to grow.
    “Offering scuba diving classes came from community interest. Class sizes vary according to the demand,” Price said. “Chris Bender has been teaching for the last two years. He has established an active program of courses that are suitable to our patrons’ schedules. It continues to grow in popularity.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Retired Lt. Col. Chad Neidig said he took the diving class as another way to spend quality time with his son, Liam.
    “Liam hasn’t always been super comfortable around the water when we first had the opportunity to try scuba diving while on vacation. He liked it,” Neidig said. “We decided to get certified, and scuba could be a thing we do together from now on.”
    Neidig said students found out about the classes from various flyers and ultimately by visiting the FMWR website. He said a phone call to Harney Sports Complex provided enrollment information.
    “We were put in touch with Mr. Bender, enrolled and now we are ready to do our open-water dives,” Neidig said.
    Liam, who is a sophomore at Lansing High School and a Life Boy Scout, said he would apply the training to his Scuba Diving Merit Badge. He also runs cross country and said learning to breathe out of his nose into the mask helped keep the lens from becoming foggy.
    “As a distance runner, my active heart rate is low, and that has made my aerobic capacity higher,” Liam said. “I don’t think I would be as comfortable underwater without the level of fitness I have.”
    FMWR provides support and leisure services designed to serve members of the Army community.
    For more information about scuba diving classes, contact Bender at (816) 419-0068 or visit FMWR online at https://leavenworth.armymwr.com.
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