By Kerstin LopezAugust 19, 2010
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Fort Leonard Wood is well-known for training engineers with various military occupational skill identifiers, but the community may not be aware that the installation is home to the Army Engineer Diver Phase I Course, which is a challenging three-week training program to see who will make it to the next phase on their way to becoming a 21D - engineer
The Engineer Diver Phase I Course is designed to assess a candidate's physical and mental ability to become a diver. The course provides information and instruction on the critical skills, and the physical and mental fitness abilities that are necessary to fulfill the requirements of Phase II, said Staff Sgt. Joseph Wulczynski, Phase I instructor.
The physical fitness training is very strenuous and is the primary reason candidates fail the course.
"This is a very difficult course both academically and physically," he said. "Besides the course load that we give them in the classroom and the homework, we push them physically to accomplish tasks in and out of the water, such as drown proofing, mask and snorkel proficiency, Diver Physical Fitness Test, Army Physical Fitness Test, 1000 yard fin swim, 4-7 mile runs and in-water problem solving."
Underwater missions of an engineer diver include search and recovery of submerged equipment or personnel, underwater construction, rehabilitation, inspection, maintenance and salvage of vessels and port facilities, which requires a great deal of knowledge and physical abilities, Wulczynski said.
More than 20 hopeful Soldiers gathered during the early morning hours, Aug. 3, at Davidson Fitness Center to see how they would fair in the strenuous Diver Physical Fitness Test. The DPFT consists of a grueling 500 yard swim that must be completed in 14 minutes, 42 push-ups in two minutes, 50 sit-ups in two minutes, 6 pull-ups and then a 1.5 mile run in 12 minutes or less, with very minimal rest breaks between events.
Wulczynski said seven to 10 classes are conducted per year with about 140-170 students per year. The current class started with 26 candidates - two rolled to the next class due to medical reason and 11 were DORs - drop on request.
"That is just about on par for this course," he said.
The Phase I course lasts about two weeks and four days, followed by roughly six months at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City Beach, Fla. The Phase I course is designed to assess the students' ability to pass the course in Florida and prepare them for the upcoming training, Wulczynski said. Once they pass this course they are shipped to the Florida training center where they will complete Phase II of their training.
"While they are here we instruct them in the use of line pulls as a form of communication; we start them on understanding dive physics, such as the gas laws and how they affect us; we introduce to them dive medicine and how to identify signs and symptoms of different diving related injuries; and we start them on basic dive charting," the instructor said.
Wulczynski said most of the candidates are straight out of basic training, though they do receive a handful of MOS-trained Soldiers in each class.
There are consequences for not passing the course. The AIT Soldiers who cannot pass or drop from the course will be given new MOS choices based on the needs of the Army, and the MOS-trained Soldiers usually go back to their previous unit, but some have the option to choose a new job.
The diver program is open to both male and female Soldiers with rank of specialist and below, and between the ages of 18 and 31, though waivers for both age and rank can be submitted.
Anyone interested in becoming an Army Engineer Diver should contact the Phase I Course at 573.596.2679 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can also be found on the website, www.wood.army.mil/554th/Diver/index.htm.