5 Tips for Transitioning From Military to Rec Diving

Ask any veteran: learning to dive in the military is tough! Brutal workouts, masochistic beatdowns and epic struggles of endurance are a daily occurrence. World renowned for its elite training, the US Navy produces the highest-caliber divers on the planet. 

Angelo Fiore, a 10-year veteran diver with the US Navy, knows a thing or two about the struggles of military dive training. Fiore, who moonlights as the Director of Dive Operations for FORCEBLUE, has spent years welcoming veterans into the recreational phase of their diving. Yet, as he makes clear, recreational diving doesn’t need to be without service or a sense of purpose.  

As he points out, one of the core differences between military and recreational diving are the brutal physical discomforts that go along with Navy diving. “You see a lot of TV shows these days about SEAL teams or the guy carrying the telephone pole on his back and all that stuff. But as Navy divers, we were subjected to a very arduous physical program.”

“It was extremely tough,” Fiore continues, “because on top of learning to dive and doing the bay swims and all of the grueling physical stuff, In addition, they intentionally put you through a lot of mental stress. There’s an environment that’s set up intentionally to try and break you while you’re under pressure and while you’re learning.”  

Regardless of the intense training and psychic stress, Fiore says he has no regrets about his time diving in the military. “I sit here today with implants in my hips, shoulder reconstruction surgeries, my body’s been banged up. But if I could go back 30 years with the info I have today, I would sign up again in a minute.”

In short: military diving puts you through the ringer. The good news is that when the Navy spits you out, you’ve worked through the best dive education that sweat, blood and tears can buy. But then what?

What is it like transitioning from military diving to recreational? We were curious, so we asked Fiore about his experiences in diving post-service and also about the groundbreaking conservation work he’s been up to with FORCEBLUE.

In his own words, here are five things to keep in mind if you’re transitioning from the military phase of your diving, to a recreational one.      

1) Pass on Your Knowledge 

Military dive training is the most formal type of scuba training available. So if you’re transitioning out of a military diving role into a rec diving capacity, other divers in the recreational space will want to learn from you because of the amount of experience you have and the knowledge you possess. It’s a trust factor.

You are a foremost expert in what you’ve done. You’ve been formally trained, you understand every aspect and you dove at the highest level. … Now you’re in the recreational field and that same level of risk isn’t there, but you still have that same amount of knowledge and you can’t put a price tag on it.      

2) Stay Engaged 

Diving gives you the opportunity to stay engaged in something you enjoy. You have to repurpose yourself, retrain your thinking into believing that you’re still doing a type of mission therapy. 

You went from a military-type environment where it was always super-arduous, to a situation where you’re still outside in the aquatic environment sharing experiences with other individuals, but now you’re really enjoying it. 

We all love the ocean, and by sharing those experiences, it gives us the joy and fulfillment of being a part of something.  

3) Share your Passion

I’m still in diving, but now I’m able to share with people. Just the side of seeing that excitement from someone who’s just gone on their first dive—not just a veteran who’s seen a fish for the first time—but the first time anyone takes a breath underwater. In my experience, that’s what really jazzes someone up and engages you on a deep level to keep coming back. 

Sharing those experiences, sharing your knowledge and sharing your passion to create that awareness. 

4) Buy Your Own Equipment

As you learn to scuba dive and you build a level of comfort, it’s extremely important for you to purchase and own your own scuba equipment. Owning your own gear allows you to customize your equipment so it feels a certain way on you. 

Nowadays in the recreational side of diving, there is so much gear that’s commonly accessible that has been derived from the military. You can see an average person with no military experience diving something that looks military-grade or military inspired. So now there’s a lot crossover—especially with rebreathers and such—where back in the day you weren’t seeing as much crossover into the recreational industry. 

5) Embrace the Calm

If you were a Navy diver, you were gettin’ beat up. You were pushing equipment underwater. You were working at an arduous pace. Whether long swims, long operations underwater, there were very few times where you could just sit back and enjoy the view. 

That’s one thing I’ve taken from the military to the recreational side: Nowadays it’s no longer that super-hard technical dive. Now, it’s turned into a very therapeutic, relaxing form of meditation. You’re just sitting there, focusing on breathing and the beauty around you—it’s a whole different feeling. Just that calm sense of peace.

Read more stories about our veterans and get schooled on the Zeagle Ranger.