CAMP PATRIOT, Kuwait -- Over the course of several years, members of the 511th Engineer Dive Detachment have prepared to elevate to the rate of salvage diver. But first, they have to pass the final test.
The 511th Eng. Dive Det. tested eight candidates in a Salvage Dive board, Feb. 1-2, 2017, Camp Patriot, Kuwait, which is the final evaluation to determine whether a diver is ready to become a lead diver in the United States Army. The two-day event consisted of a formal interview, which tested the knowledge of each candidate followed by several hands-on practical exercises.
The rate of salvage diver, is the second position out of four, in becoming a master diver. The small career field makes ascension into each rate a significant achievement.
"A salvage diver is a lead diver," said 1st Sgt. Tyler Dodd, the first sergeant for the 511th Eng. Dive Det. "They are responsible for setting up the equipment, coordinating dive locations and is an expert that can facilitate training for fellow divers."
While it is often heard that boards are scary and very stressful, the 511th Eng. Dive Det. focuses on encouraging their Soldiers.
"The board members are stewards of their profession and care about the people who are advancing to fill their shoes," Dodd said. "It's not a give me for anyone, but we're not looking to crush anybody or crush their motivation."
This board is the last step these candidates have to pass in order to advance from 2nd class diver to salvage diver. Candidates spend anywhere between one to three years working to complete 37 tasks and thus earning their certification. These start the minute the Soldier completes the Combat Diver Qualification Course. The board included correcting deficiencies on equipment, welding and creating dual charged explosive devices.
Preparation is the hardest part of this board, said Spc. Michael Higginbotham, a Salvage Diver Board candidate. From fluctuating schedules to working at full operational status, the divers have to work on their certification regardless of where they are located.
"For some of these Soldiers, they feel that their career is on the line," explained Dodd, a Poquoson, Va., native.
The rate of 2nd class diver is for E-4s and below. He explains that this Military Occupational Specialty will require a noncommissioned officer to reduce in rank if they are unable to meet the one-year requirement of passing the board for salvage diver.
"I've been stressing about this for a while," said Sgt. Christin Weber, a salvage diver candidate, and former medic who choose to switch jobs. "This board was a make or break situation for my career."
Weber was promoted within five months of becoming a 2nd class diver. He faced many obstacles trying to complete his 37 tasks in time, with missed training opportunities and deployment preparations.
"It is very relieving that the board is over with," said the Denville, N.J. native, who further stated that he performed at his expectation, which was very well despite missing one of the practical exercises.
This board will be the final block on the diver's certification, if and when they pass, the eight candidates will earn the rate of salvage diver and pin on the Salvage Diver Badge.
"All of these candidates have earned the right to be here," reiterated Dodd. "With this board, we're looking to make sure people know the information and will represent our field well."