The creation of the CWO Diver Specialty by Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp in 2014 can be traced almost directly to a diving mishap that took place eight years earlier that claimed two lives and force the service to entirely rethink the manner in which it trains and deploys Coast Guard personnel for dive operations.

On 17 August 2006, Lieutenant Jessica Hill and Petty Officer Second Class Stephen Duque of the USCGC Healy died of asphyxia and injuries caused by decompression of oxygen in their lungs after dive tenders retrieved them during an under-the-ice dive conducted some 500 miles northwest of Barrow, Alaska. Sadly, the deaths could easily have been prevented if any one of a number of precautionary steps had been followed before the dive commenced, and the tragedy forced the Coast Guard to re-examine the way approached diving duty.

Following the Healy incident, the Coast Guard made diving a primary duty and established its first two regional dive schools, bringing training and operations under a centralized command. Another step was hiring the Diver Career Management Working Group to review the Coast Guard’s mission requirement and safety concerns and issues confronting divers, as well as to examine what workforce management changes might need to be implemented to further enhance diver efficiency and safety.

While the organization recommended the creation of a Diver rating for enlisted personnel and a Diver specialty for Chiefs, it was ultimately Commandant Papp’s decision to put the changes into effect. When he established the rating and specialty, Papp called for a minimum of 64 Guardsmen to laterally transfer into the rating and for seven DIV Warrant Officers to serve as technical experts.

The Diving Specialist insignia that forms the collar device is identical to the one worn by Navy Diving Chiefs.

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