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U.S. Coast Guard Diving Program


As long as people have sailed the oceans, there have been myths of the deep. Tales of sea serpents, mermaids and giant octopus were spun by bored or mischievous sailors intending to impress and frighten.

While less fantastic, there are a few lingering myths surrounding the Coast Guard Diving Program as well. One myth is that it is difficult for qualified applicants to receive assignments to diving units.

Nothing could be further from the truth. With the addition of new dive teams at all 13 Maritime Safety and Security Teams, the opportunities for becoming a Coast Guard diver have never been better. In the past two years, 80 percent of qualified applicants received assignments to diving units. Unfortunately, only three completed applications were received this assignment year.

Another myth is that the diving community is only open to men. The numbers seem to reinforce this myth, but the program is trying to do better. Since 1997, eight of nine female diver candidates have completed diver training. These Coast Guardsmen participated in every aspect of the intensive training regimen. One of them, Lt. J.g. Kellee Gaffey of the CGC Polar Sea, earned the Honor Person designation for graduating first in her Basic Diving Officer class.

A third myth is that diver candidates have to be olympic-caliber athletes to succeed in the physically demanding training. In general, individuals who pass the physical fitness screening survive, if not thrive, in the daily physical training. While it would be inaccuinaccurate
to call the training easy, the Coast Guard typically has a 80-85 percent graduation rate.

A final myth is that individuals need to have prior diving experience or certification to be eligible for the Coast Guard Diving Program. While people with some kind of diving certification usually feel more comfortable and confident in the water, it is not a requirement. And sometimes, when divers are too set in their ways to accept Navy diving procedures, their experience can actually be a hindrance.

Coast Guard dive teams are assigned to buoy tenders in the 14th District, polar icebreakers and Maritime Safety and Security Teams. At these units, divers perform a variety of missions, from buoy tending in the Central Pacific to science support in the polar regions and security diving operations in ports around the country.

There are no guarantees that a completed diving application will result in orders to a diving unit, but it is well worth the effort to try.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Active Duty Volunteer
  • Under 35 Years Old
  • ASVAB (AR+WK=104 and MC=50)
  • No Marks Less Than 4 In Last 6 Months
  • Polar Icebreaker or OCONUS Units - Overseas Screening Certification

A Diving Officer or Master Diver Interview is required to assess your motivation, answer your questions and ensure you fully understand the training process.

A Command Endorsement is required to assess your commitment to physical fitness, your ability to deal with stress and your overall competence.

A thorough Medical Examination is required to ensure you are medically fit for high-risk training and exposure to hyperbaric environments.

A Physical Screening Test is required to ensure you meet minimum fitness requirements necessary to effectively perform underwater. Standards are the same for all candidates regardless of age or gender.

  • Swim -- 500 yards, non-stop, using side or breast stroke -- 14 minutes
  • Rest -- 10 minutes
  • Push-ups -- 42 push-ups in 2 minutes
  • Rest -- 2 minutes
  • Sit-ups -- 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes
  • Rest -- 2 minutes
  • Pull-Ups -- 6 pull-ups, no time limit. Palms facing away from the body
  • Rest -- 10 minutes
  • Run -- 1.5 miles 12:45 time limit

A Pressure Tolerance Test is required to ensure you are able successfully adapt to increased atmospheric pressure without an adverse reaction.


Diver training is some of the most physically and mentally intense training available in the Coast Guard. Days begin early with morning calisthenics and lengthy runs or swims. The two primary courses utilized by the Diving Program are SCUBA Diver and Basic Diving Officer, and are taught at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center.

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