Children, adults can experience Guam below sea level
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Exploring the depths of the aquatic world may be unheard of for some, but the 36th Force Support Squadron Andersen Family Dive Center here has made scuba diving an easy and accessible hobby to learn for all.
Since a new company took over the contract with the base to run the center in January, it's instructors have certified more than 200 divers, and the numbers continue to rise as permanent party, deployers and family members take advantage of the diving opportunity.
"Guam is one of the easiest and cheapest places to learn to dive," said Megan Statkus, Andersen Family Dive Center chief operating officer. "It's beautiful, the weather's warm and the island is full of dive sites and marine life. All (people) have to do is come to the shop and sign up for one of the courses to start."
The center offers a large variety of diving classes, to include four main certification courses, 10 specialty courses and a few courses tailored for children ages 8 and up.
All the center's instructors are Professional Association of Diving Instructors-certified and work with individuals in small groups or one-on-one to make sure they are prepared to venture below sea level.
"I've certified hundreds of divers, mostly military, and it's something I will always enjoy," said Bob Clark, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron and Andersen Family Dive Center instructor. "It's great having a job I love to do."
First-time divers must take the PADI Open Water Diver Course which introduces the basic scuba skills and allows divers to travel 60-feet deep. After the open-water certification, divers can try for their advanced diver, rescue diver or even a master diver certification. Divers can also sign up for specialty certifications, which include wreck dives, deep dives, enriched air, peak-performance buoyancy, fish identification and underwater photography.
"It doesn't get any better than this," Clark said. "It's a great shop with great ownership, great facilities and some of the best diving in the world here and close by."
Statkus said the center's staff is willing to work with different schedules in order to accommodate everyone, especially the basic open water course. There are different variations of classes, and divers can choose if they'd like to take a two-week long course or enter an expedited course to get certified over a weekend.
Children ages 8 and up can also learn to dive. There are various courses offered to children to include the "Bubble Maker" and "Seal Team" classes. Children, ages 8 and 9 learn to dive in the pool, and ages 10 to 14 are able to get a junior open-water certification allowing them to travel 40-feet deep.
"We have activities, classes and gear for almost any age," Statkus said. "Right here in the shop we have all the diving gear available to rent or buy, and we even fix gear here as well. Anyone with base access is welcome; we are like a family here."
With more than 75 dive locations on island, diving has become a common hobby among military and the community. Once someone is certified, they are certified for life, and many students say they are grateful to learn on Guam.
"I think it's great the base has made it so easy for people to not only get certified, but dive as often as they want," said Staff Sgt. John White, 36th Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician and former AAFB dive student. "I've gotten both my open water and advanced diving certification through the dive center, and now, diving is one of my favorite things to do on the island."
The AAFB Family Dive Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information or to register for classes contact the center at 366-6975.