Diving into Community Service
May 28, 2013
The freedom of the open seas has driven countless pirates and sailors to explore its vast breath. A different set of adventurers are exploring its depths -- scuba divers. The thrill to explore under the waters continues to inspire these individuals and provides an outlet from their everyday stresses.
"After my first tour here, everything got boring. So on my second tour I decided to get out and do things that I haven't done before like sky diving, scuba diving and bicycling," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Travis Chong, a native of Austin, Texas, assigned to Company B, 602nd Aviation Support Battalion, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "I fell in love with scuba diving and when I got my first certification that was it. Every weekend I was planning to go somewhere and scuba dive, because of that, I was always busy planning for the next weekend and time went by fast."
Chong went on to be one of the founding members of the On the Edge Xtreme Sports scuba club and its diving instructor. The OTEXS scuba club, consisting of Soldiers from across the 2nd CAB, provides a way for Soldiers to get out and explore Korea while helping the local fishermen.
"My favorite part about being in the club is it gives me the opportunity to travel and do things I haven't done before," said Pfc. Caleb Driggers, from Fort Myers, Fla., assigned to Company A, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd CAB.
Like many clubhouses, the idea started with a group of friends who wanted to share with others the new, fun experience of scuba diving. Unlike other clubs though, its members have the opportunity to overcome a barrier that can be limiting at times -- the culture barrier.
"I love scuba diving, there is nothing like the freedom you experience under the water," said Sgt. Tony Anders, a CH-47 helicopter repairer also assigned to Company B, 602nd ASB.
"Because I can speak the language, I am able to build the bridge between the American and Korean divers," said Chong. "I can get help from Koreans to figure out what dive points are good for what seasons because they know their country. This also allows me to bring the club members to the real Korea and not just tourist hotspots."
Like any relationship, the rapport between the divers and the Korean nationals is a two-way street. After Chong was told about a problem the Koreans were facing, he and the others decided to help with the problem.
"I got this idea from a Korean; he told me that the starfish were killing everything in the water. Since starfish are not dangerous for us to pick up, I started to pick them up with the other club members," said Chong. "Of course when you start picking up the starfish, you run into trash that is harmful such as broken bottles and trash, so we pick those up also."
Korean nationals are not the only ones who benefit from this small act of kindness, the divers also got the opportunity to experience what it is like to help others.
"It makes me feel good," said Anders. "I think everyone should give back a little."
This small group of divers have set themselves apart for not only providing other Soldiers a way to get certified at a low cost but also for its work to better the country even attracting the attention of Korean diving magazines. They have not let this success make them stationary as they have continued to certify members and provide them with a place to call home.