Sunday, October 17, 2010

When the team is in Sync!

Doing technical dives, as a team can be one of the most rewarding experiences as a diver.  This is especially true when the team members are in sync with each other and have the same goals, equipment configurations, and safety and communications protocols. 

I have the fortunate advantage of being able to dive quite frequently as part of a 3-man team consisting of my two sons and myself.  Josh, Michael and myself are experienced cave, wreck and CCR divers.  All 3 of us are technical dive instructors or instructor trainers and have on “most days” very similar philosophies about diving in general.  All of my kids, having grown up in a “diving household” were part of the nightly diving discussions (sometimes arguments) that took place around the dinner table, and from a very early age were keenly aware of team diving protocols!  This made for some lively discussion and testing of dad’s opinions!   

As soon as the boys were old enough to start actively taking part in technical diving, I was acutely aware of my wife’s determination that we as a team return from our crazy adventures with the same team members with which we left the house.  If something were to happen to one of the boys, I might as well not come home!

Now as adults, Josh and Michael give me a serious run for my money!  Long gone are the days when dad dictates to the young boys what profiles and procedures we will be following.  Since these days we typically dive as a CCR team, our team activities include prepping and testing our rebreathers to make sure that they work as advertised!  Some of the prep will include making sure that the units are set up identically with gas selections, decompression algorithms, gas fills, bail out options, fresh batteries, O2 cells that are working properly and especially making sure that all of our equipment is rigged similarly and is in 100% working order.  Due to the fact that all 3 of us dive the same CCR rigs, we are more closely able to help monitor and keep an eye on each other during the dive.  It’s kind of funny sometimes to look at underwater pictures of us, because its often difficult to tell who is who!  (Although if you look closely, you can usually tell which one is me, because I have a little better form!:) )

Prior to any “big” dives, we spend a lot of time as a team discussing our safety protocols, rigging our equipment in the desired fashion and practicing our individual and team procedures in an environment as close as possible to the target environment.  We practice these team procedures over and over again until we feel comfortable that we are as prepared as possible for both planned and unplanned events.  We spend a lot of time talking about “what ifs” and practice our responses to such events.  One of the interesting things about practicing all of these “what ifs” is that it seems to makes us more aware of potential problems and as a team we seem to do a reasonably good job of avoiding the problems to start with, simply because we become more aware of them! 

Underwater communication because extremely critical when diving as a team.  Due to the fact that we have been diving as a unit for many years, we clearly have a substantial advantage.  Even though most of our signals are fairly standard cave diver and decompression diver signals, we still spend time before each dive reviewing our communication protocols.  Our underwater team communication actually starts above water.  Part of our pre-dive planning includes substantial discussion about the goals of the dive, the profiles and any unique procedures pertaining to that particular dive.  Underwater, is not the time to be figuring out these types of things!  We typically spend a lot more time discussing and planning our dives than we do actually executing the dives.  That is all just part of the fun! 

After each of our dives, we will hold a post dive debriefing, where each of the team members will take the opportunity to review how the dive went and offer suggestions on how to improve our team efforts. 

Even though we are all high spirited and competitive individuals, when it comes time to operate as a CCR team, there is no messing around.  We take our diving seriously, and even though we have a lot of fun, our goal is to pull each dive off with a precision that enhances our safety and effectiveness.  Believe me when I say that if any one member of the team deviates from the plan, you definitely hear about it from the other two members!  I have on a few occasions had to suffer through a tongue lashing from Josh and Michael when they felt I had not followed the plan with precise exactness! 

Technical diving, especially team diving in overhead environments on CCR, requires a single mindedness of attitude and execution.  It also makes for great stories to talk about around the dinner table!   By the way, my daughter and wife, also technical divers in their own right, are equally capable of joining in the lively diving discussions at the dinner table!
We are all about fun, but at the end of the day, the greatest satisfaction comes from developing a plan, executing on the plan and then returning as a team to tell our big fish whopper stories that make our dives sound incredibly difficult, exciting and death defying!

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