SPACES National SCUBA School: An Unforgettable Adventure By YM/GySgt Jude Smith, Division 3 Public Affairs Correspondent Capital City (NC) This summer,I attended the National SCUBA School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, with the assis- tance of the Young Marines Alumni Associa- tion SPACES Scholarship. When we arrived, the SCUBA instructors gave us a debrief on what was going to be happening over the next two weeks. We all were a bit nervous about what was to come, but we knew it would be a lot of fun. Before we began training and classes, we had to a pre-qualifying test, which consisted of a 200 meter swim, 10 minute tread water, and a 50 foot underwater swim (with one breath, if needed). All of us passed. With that out of the way, the real fun began! The first thing that we learned aboout was the different piec- es of equipment on the SCUBA gear. We learned what a BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) was, what a regulator was, and ev- erything that we needed to know about the equipment. Then we started to get into what it meant to be a SCUBA diver (it’s not just swimming around and looking at starfish). You really have to pay close attention to your surroundings. After a few days of dry land practice and classes, we finally got to go into the pool and perform our skill sets. We had to perform these in order to pass the pre-qualifying part of be- coming an Open Water Diver. All of us passed. The next day, we went on a boat to go see a reef and the nursery that was there. We also went to see the shipwreck, the Copenhagen. When we were down there, it was just incredible. It’s literally another world that very few of us have yet to explore. We saw so many fish, including lionfish, parrotfish, and even groupers! We got to stand on a sand bank where we did some other activities, including skill sets. One of the dives that we did for Open Water Certification was a 60 foot dive to the Sea Emperor.That was my favorite one of those dives for the certification. We saw really beautiful coral, and it’s amazing how they can grow on ships and still support ma- rine life! We went on two more dives after that. Once we had completed four dives, we were Open Water Certified for PADI SCUBA training. We were all so excited, but there was much more to be learned. We then had to learn Advanced Open Water and Emergency First Responder. We had to then learn Peak Per- formance Buoyancy, Underwater Navigation, Coral Conservation, and many other things Advanced Open Water Divers take part in. While we were there, we watched a touch- ing documentary called “Chasing Coral”. This documentary shows how corals and reefs around the world have been disappearing due to climate change, salinity, human in- teractions, among other reasons. With the Young Marines mission to “Strengthen the Lives of America’s Youth”,they gave us a task to figure out a way to reverse the de- cline of the coral’s disappearance and speed up the coral’s pro- duction so more can support the marine life. I am really glad the Young Marines decided to do this. We are not only helping out our communities on land, but we are doing something for another part of the world, something that we rely on, and we are taking that step forward with pride. We also learned about the importance of CPR, and how to properly administer CPR to adults, children, and infants. When you’re on land it’s not as complex, but when you’re in the water, it’s a whole step further from land practice. I think the coolest part about this whole experience is the ability to earn college credits. When you attend this school, you get to earn so many certifications, such as Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Responder, Coral Con- servation, Project AWARE, and many others. You can use those certifications for college credits.The thing I enjoyed more than the dives were the friendships. There’s something about SPAC- ES friendships that are even more special than most. Everyone got along, and we all had an outstanding time. I strongly en- courage everyone to apply for this trip. Not only do you make friends for a lifetime, but you also have the time of your life and gain memories that will never go away. 24 YOUNG MARINES ESPRIT Online