The area surrounding Joint Base Lewis-McCord lends itself to a plethora of outdoor activities. Biking, hiking, camping and climbing Mt. Rainier are just a few. But for service members, their families and Department of Defense civilians, there is the opportunity to discover the world which lives below the surface of Puget Sound.

The North West Adventure Center on JBLM North provides the opportunity to explore the world of diving and the benefit of being trained by the only Professional Association of Diving Instructors, 5 Star Instructor Development Center in the DoD.

"A PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Center (5 Star IDC) is a dive center that not only meets all 5 Star Dive Center standards, but also offers PADI Instructor-level training. A PADI 5 Star IDC offers dive consumers programs to fulfill their educational goals from entry-level training up through instructor-level certifications," according to the organizations web site.

"Having a PADI Course Director on staff indicates the 5 Star IDC's commitment to offering instructor development programs and continuing education opportunities to dive professionals. By offering PADI Instructor-level training, a PADI 5 Star IDC takes on the responsibility of developing PADI Instructors."

But at this shop, class members who sign up for the $180 course, get more than just highly rated instructions, they are also provided everything they will need to be successful.

With the Basic Open Water Course students will get their license, which never expires and they can dive anywhere in the world as low as 600 feet. Also they get their books and all the equipment they will need, said Israel Ortiz, North West Adventures dive shop manager and senior instructor. "Compared to an outside shop, they charge you for everything separately so you could spend upwards of four or five hundred dollars."

Beyond the school work and the opportunity to take part in an activity that can be done anywhere in the world, the shop prides itself on delivering a very important family aspect.

"When we teach this class we teach it as a family activity. The kids see mom and dad diving and they are going to want to do it also," said Ortiz, a 35 year diver. "We don't ever want to treat our customers like they are customers. We always want to treat them like part of our diving family."

And for those who may fear this class is too advanced, they can rest assured it is not just designed for excellent swimmers or those who have done diving before. The shop caters to all types of skill levels.

"A majority of our students are Soldiers who have always wanted to learn to dive. But we have a lot of family members who want the opportunity to learn as well," commented Ortiz.
For one member of the class it was an opportunity to take what he had done before to another

"My wife and I did a dive during our honeymoon and we really enjoyed it. She surprised me by signing us up for the class, and it's been great," said 2nd Lt. Jayson Clinton, 109th Military Intelligence Battalion, intelligence officer.

After the wetsuits are piled in the corner and everyone exchanges their exciting stories, Ortiz enjoys the opportunity to teach people about the underwater world.

"I enjoy seeing the expressions on their face when they breathe under the water for the first time, I am creating ambassadors for the sport and the underwater world we need to work hard to protect, "said Ortiz.

If you have ever wondered what wildlife lurked in the waters around JBLM now is your chance to find out. The Basic Open Water course fills up fast and certifies approximately 400 divers a year.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16