Diving with frogmen!

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01 Oct 2018 | OPS & TRAINING

Diving with frogmen!

Nine-year-old Sunay Mishra gets a taste of naval diving training from his "buddy" 2nd Warrant Officer (2WO) Andrew Chng, a frogman school instructor.

// PHOTOS Tan Yong Quan

Learning the various hand signals that divers use to 'talk' to each other underwater.
English Melayu

I have always been interested in the military. So when an opportunity to meet the naval divers presented itself, I jumped at it! It was a long drive to Sembawang Camp, home of the Republic of Singapore Navy's Naval Diving Unit (NDU). 

I met Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Seck Wai Kong, Sergeant Major of Frogman School. He explained that the role of a sergeant major was like being the discipline master of a school. 

At the pool-side, MWO Wai Kong introduced the various equipment used by naval divers for training such as dive mask, fins, gloves, and more. 

My buddy

I was then introduced to my "buddy" for the day, 2WO Andrew. In the NDU, your buddy can follow you through your entire career. I really like the fact that such lasting relationships can be forged.

I was "tied" to 2WO Andrew with a buddy line, a 1.5-metre rope tied around a diver's arm which has a clip at the end that can be attached to another diver's buddy line. It acts as a mode of communication underwater and must never be removed.

MWO Wai Kong tying a buddy line around my arm. He also shows me the equipment used by naval divers.

Going underwater

I couldn't wait to enter the training pool. At its deepest, the pool is 10-metres deep! MWO Wai Kong reminded me that this was about seven times my height, but I knew I was safe so I was not too nervous, although very much in awe of the divers.

I put on a life vest and dive mask to try breathing underwater. Then 2WO Andrew helped me put on an oxygen tank and asked me if I could feel the weight. It was really heavy, but I learnt that the tank on me was actually almost empty! I tried breathing the air from the oxygen tank at a shallow depth underwater.

I also tried making the hand signals that divers use underwater — for example, a thumbs-up meant I was ready to surface, while a thumbs-down meant I was ready to descend.

Working in pairs

We then headed to the viewing gallery to watch two divers in action underwater. Another diver with a spare mouthpiece connected to his oxygen tank was present to watch over them.

The pair demonstrated how they shared their air supply by taking turns to breathe from one mouthpiece. They also performed another drill. One of them fell "unconscious" and his buddy went to check on him and helped him to surface safely.

A diver turns back to check on his buddy after feeling a tug on his buddy line. He then helps him to rise to the surface safely.

Sharing

After I changed out of my wet clothes, I had a chance to speak to Corporal (CPL) Joel Toh and CPL Jason Toh, who were serving their National Service as naval divers. They looked extremely fit and jogged to get from one place to another within the camp.   

They shared their tough experience during Team Building Week. They had to go through harsh physical training with little sleep, including having their regulators ripped off their faces during a dive! I also spoke to Corporal (CPL) Neimann Angkawijana, who was an Anglo-Chinese School (Primary) boy like me.

Open sea

Next, we went up a 5-metre high tower where divers jump from as part of their training; I felt dizzy just looking down from there. Our last stop was the hyperbaric chamber, where all aspiring naval divers have to undergo a bounce dive. 

Air is pumped into the airtight cylinder to simulate the pressure of a 10-metre dive underwater.

As we made our way out of the camp, I saw a beautiful golden frog statue – it is the NDU mascot. Over there, I took pictures with all the awesome divers. 

The best part was when I got to keep the buddy line I was using as a souvenir!

The question on my mind now is whether to continue with my ambition of being a doctor, or to train really hard to become super fit and become a naval diver one day!  

Having a chat with CPL Angkawijana (from left), CPL Joel Toh and CPL Jason Toh.
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