Although considered the “entry-level” Navy Diving qualification, obtaining the SCUBA qualification is no small feat. Only three ratings—SEAL, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, and Navy Diver—require SCUBA training. And historically high dropout rates, the costs involved in training and reassignment, and the low number of billets that require SCUBA qualification means the Navy is extremely selective in SCUBA candidates.

Whether an officer or an enlisted Sailor (E4 and above), those seeking to earn the SCUBA qualification must display a strong interest in SCUBA operations, exhibit high moral character and excellent judgment, and be highly motivated to tackle rigorous physical and intellectual challenges.

Those selected for SCUBA training at the Navy Diving and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) in Panama City, Florida must successfully pass a Navy diving physical within the previous 24 months, then undergo a battery or more than a dozen medical test within 90 days of the original exam. These include X-rays, dental exams, urinalysis, electrocardiogram, tests for diseases such as hepatitis C and tuberculosis, neurological tests, and more.

Once these baseline medical requirements have been met, SCUBA trainees must then complete a test comprised of a series of timed calisthenics and physical activities that’s reminiscent of the benchmarks that SEALs and Aviation Rescue Swimmers must achieve. After swimming nonstop for 500 yards followed by a ten-minute recovery period, candidates must perform 50 push-ups in two minutes, take a two-minute rest, then do 50 sit-ups. A two-minute break is followed by six pull-ups (candidates are surely grateful there is no time limit to do this section), then they’re given ten minutes to recover before taking off on a mile-and-a-half run which must be completed in twelve-and-a-half-minutes or less.

Enlisted Sailors who graduate from the SCUBA course will earn NEC 5345 and the right to wear the SCUBA breast insignia, while officers will have the SD7 Additional Qualification Designation added to their officer designator.

Until 2004, the U.S. Army awarded a SCUBA badge identical to the Navy’s, but replaced it with the Special Operations Diver Badge. Personnel from all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, including the Army, attend the NDSTC for the training required to earn their diving qualifications.

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