The Salvage Diver badge was approved on February 15, 1944, along with three other Army Diver badges—Second Class, First Class, and Master—that could be earned by enlisted personnel serving as Engineer Divers.

Salvage Diver is somewhat unique among military diving qualifications in that it is an intermediary qualification between Second- and First-Class Divers. The Army’s Engineer Diver program consists of two phases, the first of which is conducted by the 169th Engineer Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood as a type of preliminary assessment to weed out candidates who lack the physical capabilities necessary to perform the strenuous tasks carried out by Salvage Dives.

In addition to classes and homework acquainting students with the basics of physics and gas laws associated with diving, the first phase also includes timed runs and swims, physical fitness tests (hopefuls must pass the more stringent Diver Physical Fitness version), underwater problem-solving tests, and more.

Only between 15 to 22 percent of those entering Phase 1 will advance to the second phase held at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. During the 130 training days spread out over 26 weeks, the Salvage Diver candidates become familiar not only with diving skills, but also specific tasks associated with the qualification such as underwater demolitions and cutting and welding techniques.

Many of the Army personnel who make it past Phase 1 will drop out during this second, more extensive training program, and in recent months the Army has experienced a severe shortage of Engineer Divers. A Department of the Army memorandum dated July 26, 2016 stated bluntly that “We need Soldiers for this MOS,” referring to MOS 12D Engineer Diver.

To earnt the Salvage Diver badge, Engineer Divers must have the rank of Sergeant or higher, have earned MOS12D, hold and maintain CPR qualifications per the American Red Cross or American Heart Association standards, and pass both the Army and Diver Physical Fitness Tests (the DPFTs must be taken as often as the APFT).

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