U.S. Coast Guard Diving Program

These divers are among the elite in the Armed Forces

Coast Guard
••• Spencer Platt/Staff/Getty Images 

The Coast Guard established Diver as a new rating (job) in 2015, formalizing this key part of its personnel. The DV rating is one of the more challenging to achieve in the Coast Guard, but its members are considered among the elite​ divers in the world. 

The eligibility requirements for Coast Guard initial diver training include a combined score of arithmetic reasoning plus word knowledge of at least 104 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests. For deep-sea diving medical applicants, a combined score of 110 is required. All applicants need at least a 50 on the mechanical comprehension segment of the ASVAB.

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.

To be eligible as a Coast Guard diver, you must volunteer for the job, and be under 35 years old. You'll also need to have a secret security clearance from the Department of Defense on file. 

Becoming a Master Diver in the Coast Guard

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.

All candidates for Coast Guard diver need to meet the following fitness criteria, and standards are the same for all candidates regardless of age or gender:

  • Swim -- 500 yards, non-stop, using side or breaststroke -- 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

In addition, a pressure tolerance test will be given to all candidates to ensure they are able to successfully adapt to increased atmospheric pressure without an adverse reaction.

Training as a Coast Guard Diver

The Coast Guard Diver training program is one of the most physically and mentally intense 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.

The first few weeks provide thorough classroom instruction on Diving Physics, Diving Medicine, and SCUBA Fundamentals. After that, the training moves into the pool where standard procedures are taught and reinforced.

For SCUBA students the final week before graduation is spent training in open-water. After graduation, SCUBA students will spend a couple of days (depending on the number of Coast Guard students in the class) on Coast Guard specific training with dry suits, full-face masks, lightweight surface-supplied diving equipment and lift bags.

For Basic Diving Officer and Deep-Sea Diving Medical Technicians, the course proceeds after SCUBA into Surface-Supplied Air Diving Procedures, Advanced Diving Medicine, Advanced Physics, Hyperbaric Chamber Operations and basic Underwater Ship's Husbandry.

Polar Icebreakers

Polar Icebreakers operate in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, providing logistics and dedicated science support to scientific research missions.

In the Arctic, the Icebreakers serve as a research platform, taking teams of scientists as far as the North Pole, through ice conditions that would make those places unreachable by standard research vessels. In the Antarctic, the Icebreakers create a channel through the ice into McMurdo Sound in order to allow cargo ships to resupply the science station with fuel, food, and materials.

The duties of polar icebreaker divers include:

  • providing scientists dive support to take still and video images and collect samples of various organisms and objects beneath polar ice
  • conducting underwater ship husbandry, including running gear and hull inspections, propeller cleanings and propeller pitch calibrations
  • locating objects underwater; most units are equipped with some salvage equipment and may be able to raise large objects

Fourteenth District Buoy Tenders

Buoy tenders maintain aids to navigation (ATON), conduct search and rescue and handle law enforcement. The highly mobile nature of the diving team allows for rapid response to ATON discrepancies throughout the Central and Western Pacific Ocean.

With the aid of a small boat, the diving team can inspect and (if necessary) lift or reposition an aid of any size. Divers are also able to work on aids in restricted or shallow water where it is unsafe to take the cutter.

Buoy tenders conduct extensive, independent ATON operations requiring minimal support. Divers can inspect moorings, change out buoys, salvage sunken buoys, and lift buoy sinkers. Most ATON diving is conducted from small boats, allowing the dive team to work ATON in shallow water where a cutter would be at risk.

Maritime Safety and Security Teams

These divers provide waterborne and shoreside anti-terrorism/force protection for strategic shipping, high-interest vessels, and critical infrastructure.

MSSTs are a quick response force capable of rapid, nationwide deployment via air, ground or sea transportation. Diving teams provide an underwater inspection capability for ships and port facilities.