Ocean Turtle Diving (OTD) of Basingstoke, Hampshire has become the first PADI dive-centre in the UK to sign the Armed Forces Covenant. The move is described as a commitment to provide practical support for existing and former military personnel in recognition of their value to the nation.
OTD, one of the UK’s three PADI 5* Career Development Centres, has pledged to offer personnel and their families a range of support and services, including discounted scuba-diving courses. It will also be working with local Combined Cadet Force schools to arrange dive-trips and training.
The centre specialises in training divers who might otherwise feel deterred by physical or mental barriers from taking up scuba as a recreational activity.
Owner Kerrie Eade, a PADI Platinum Course Director and Elite Instructor, is an instructor-trainer in adaptive techniques. She and her OTD team offer bespoke training programmes to meet the individual needs of divers including amputees and those with mental-health issues.
“Being under water is a well-known healer; the benefits of being in nature and slow, deep breathing are well-documented, and those with physical disabilities are able to be free and independent,” says Eade, describing the opportunity to work with veterans and service-leavers as “an absolute privilege for the entire team”.
“Over the years I have been lucky enough to see many serving and ex-service men and women learn to dive, go on to great things and become instructors themselves,” she said. “Learning to scuba dive has been life-changing for so many people who have benefited both physically and mentally.”
Former Royal Green Jackets veteran Paul Ungi, now a support manager with Capita at the Army National Recruitment Centre in Wiltshire, recently completed a PADI Reactivate course with OTD. Much of his previous diving had been undertaken while serving in Northern Ireland, but he had left the military in 1998 facing mental-health challenges.
“For me to take that step to introduce myself to Ocean Turtle took a giant leap of faith and confidence, but without doing so I would not have been able to complete my Reactivate Course and regain my confidence,” he says.