FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Five new dive students got their first taste of scuba training during the Fort Rucker Aquarians club's first meeting of the season March 21 at Splash! pool.

The group of first-timers learned about proper breathing techniques, underwater swimming and survival swimming during the class, said Will Grafton, Aquarians club president.

Getting to know the students' skill levels and teaching them some basic techniques is a high priority for the opening session.

"One reason we start with basic swimming skills is to prevent a diver from panicking during an emergency situation," he said. "The more comfortable they are in the water, the less likely they are to panic. Having a mask removed or a regulator pulled out of your mouth can make you want to shoot to the surface for air."

Techniques such as mask clearing are also essential for scuba diving. Members of the club learn how to clear a mask and how to control their breathing underwater without needing to get to the surface first.

"If a mask gets flooded or fogs up it can cause a diver to panic," Grafton added. "It's important all divers know how to correct these problems without needing to get to the surface."

During the meeting, students worked on basic swimming from one end of the pool to the other and then moved on to snorkel training.

Shawn Holmes, a UH-60 instructor pilot with 1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment and Aquarians dive master, showed the students how to properly use a snorkel and how to avoid some potential problems while using it.

"It's very important to never breathe through your nose while using a snorkel," he said. "It's surprising how many people have trouble with that when they start using one. That's why we practice it now and get the students used to working in conditions that might cause them to panic."

Holmes showed the students how to approach a snorkel that is already submerged by clearing the airway and taking cautious breaths to make sure it's safe to use.

CW2 Brian Williams, E Company, 1st Bn., 212th Avn. Regt. UH-60 instructor pilot and new Aquarians club member, said it was exciting to be able to learn something new. While he has some experience with diving, he's never had formal training.

"I have tried scuba diving before when I was in the Dominican Republic, but the training wasn't what it should have been," he said. "I'd love to be able to go new places and try diving while on vacation. I'm really looking forward to deep water diving and maybe some cave diving."

The training day closed with Holmes and Grafton showing the students how to use "survival swimming" techniques to keep themselves afloat for long periods of time.

"This exercise is meant to help them survive if they're in a situation like if a boat they were on in the middle of the ocean suddenly sank and they have to wait on someone to pick them up," Grafton said. "These techniques can also be applied to help them swim long distances without getting tired quickly."

Lindsey Reich, new Aquarian club member and military spouse, said the class was challenging, but she's looking forward to the new experiences it could bring.

"It was a good class, but I do need to work on my breathing," she said. "I did some mandatory swimming classes in school, but I've never done anything like this before. I'm from Pennsylvania originally and there's not a lot of stuff like this there. It's going to be great to be able to travel and see some of the sea life up close."

For more information, call 774-3483 or 347-6936.