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Explore Puget Sound with JBLM Scuba

Experience underwater life with the only MWR-sponsored Scuba program in the world

Pete and his newly certified divers celebrate after their final dive at Sunnyside Beach in Steilacoom. Photo courtesy of Pete Holmberg

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Is it any surprise to learn that, according to Army Times, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the most requested duty station in the U.S.? Mount Rainier, the Cascade Mountains, and hundreds of miles of Puget Sound shoreline are only a short drive away. MWR recognizes that Washington state is a dream destination for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts, and offers countless activities for just the type, including scuba diving. Servicemembers and their families can become certified with JBLM Scuba, the only five-star PADI IDC in the military.

"Puget Sound has more sea life per volume of seawater than anywhere else in the world, including the Great Barrier Reef," said Pete Holmberg, retired Army officer and Master Scuba Instructor with JBLM Scuba.

In fact, Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the United States, with over 3,000 species of invertebrates, more than 200 species of marine fish, and marine mammals that include orcas, sea lions, sea otters, humpback whales and harbor seals. When asked what you can expect to see on a dive, Holmberg replied, "Everybody wants to see a giant Pacific octopus. I've seen as many as 10 on a single dive right off Sunnyside beach. Another thing we have here are wolf eels. We've seen several -- they're ferocious-looking but they're interesting because they mate for life ... and you can pet them. I've seen seals underwater a few times ... harbor seals are playful ... they'll come up and bite your fins."

While thrilling for some, the thought of seals biting at you while submerged 30 feet underwater sounds frightening to most. Holmberg compared scuba diving to driving on the freeway -- you can do it every day without getting hurt, given that you follow the rules, try your best to be safe, and keep your equipment serviced and maintained. After making more than 1,700 dives and certifying over 1,100 students, we'd dive with him any day.

Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving where the diver uses a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus independent from a surface air supply. The diver carries a cylinder of compressed air, which is then breathed through a regulator, allowing him or her the freedom to move independently underwater. The MWR Scuba program offers training and certification at the beginner level all the way up to instructor. If you are an adequate swimmer (able to swim 200 yards and tread water for 10 minutes), in good physical health and no scuba experience, then the beginner course is for you.

The Open Water Diver course is offered monthly, and requires a week of night classes (6-10 p.m.) plus weekend morning dives to receive your PADI Open Water certification. For $240, you receive all of your class materials, instructions, and rental equipment, which is well below the more standard costs you would pay off base. After you're certified, you can continue diving with rental gear from the scuba shop, from wet suits and fins to Buoyancy Control Devices and regulators, at a fraction of the cost other shops charge. If you are interested in learning more what JBLM Scuba has to offer, visit, or join the JBLM Scuba Club Facebook page.

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