Article by Turner Austin- Neptune
Photos credit Neptune Warrior
Over the past two years, an organization in Idaho has been making a difference in the lives of police and first responders in the Treasure Valley. A 501c(3) nonprofit,Neptune Warrior was originally set up as an outreach for veterans, and uses scuba diving as therapy for PTSD, physical wounds, and transition;and has extended its offering to law enforcement, fire, EMS, and hospital emergency staffs.
“I have a history in military law enforcement as well as my military background, I have board members who work in law enforcement and EMS, and it just seemed like a natural extension,” says Rob Anderson, founder and director of Neptune Warrior.
Scuba diving has been shown to reduce symptoms of PTSD by up to 80 percent – imagine what it can do for the local heroes in our community.
“I’ve given CPR to a six-year old, responded to mass destruction in aircraft crashes, dealt with hostile individuals, and then all the political garbage that happens on-shift with people who think have your backbut don’t. All of this adds up. Justlike others, I needed a space where that doesn’t exist. Underwater you don’t think about the kid you tried to save, the destruction of an entire neighborhood, or the guy that tried to kill you. More important, I needed a community that had my back.”
Neptune Warrior uses a repeatable process of getting divers in the water in local pool space to promote relaxation and recreation.
“Unlike other dive organizations that train and certify divers then take them on a once in a lifetime trip, we meet every week,” says Rob. “We
use a three prong approach of diving, PTSD coaching, and community. Sure, going to Hawaii is great, but for the same cost of sending a diver to Hawaii, I can certify eight to 10 divers who now have a local community to dive with and lean on in times of need.”
“I came up with [the] concept while I was diving in Hawaii in 2016. I had a tough year in 2015 and wasn’t really looking beyond the next moment. I know what diving did for me in my own struggles and my own battles with PTSD, and the calm that it brought. This also gives me a sense of mission. I needed a purpose after leaving the military. I think back to when I didn’t want to go on. It’s not a cure-all. There are nights I
Diagnosed with PTSD in 2006, Rob, a veteran himself, wanted to give veterans and first responders a way to cope:
still see faces from the past. I stillwake sweating like crazy. I still flashback on certain smells. But it’s less frequent, more manageable, and for a few hours a week something I don’t have to deal with.”
The Neptune Warrior program teaches the basic concepts of how to breathe compressed air underwater, then builds students up to relaxation and motor skill techniques. They can provide basic relaxation sessions all the way to Dive Master training. Events are held weekly at throughout the Treasure Valley area. Pool space is hard to come by for the program and often their waitlist is limited to getting pool time.
“It’s one of our greatest challenges.Just when we find a spot, we quicklyget moved out due to competing interest of the community,” says Rob. “We are often an afterthought with the exception of a few generous aquatic and activity managers. Our goal is to have our own facility in the near future. Right now I’m just trying to make sure I have gear for the following week.”
Neptune Warrior relies on donated
scuba gear to support our program. Often the gear its divers use is older than the divers. Rob says all of the equipment is donated and theorganization is 100 percent non-profit.
“Last year we were blessed by Captain Monk of SeaTrek BVI with two brand new sets of gear. We didn’t know how to respond. We were kind of afraidto use it at first,” he exclaims. “Ourbiggest help has come from Tates Rents who supplied us with funding to purchase scuba tanks and BoiseScuba who keeps them filled for us.”
In less than 24 months the program has seen growth and received a lot of attention. In 2017 Rob was recognized at one of the “Top 25 Contributors to Scuba Diving” by the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). Rob has also been invited to speak on national and regional platforms about PTSD and diving.
“I’ve been asked how soon we are going to do this program in Austin, Tempe, San Antonio, Seattle, Detroit, etc. But we are called to be here in Boise. We are the last place in the
world people think about diving, yet every Thursday night in the summer I get my divers together with divers from Boise Scuba Center for the ‘Ultimate Diving Challenge’. It’s great to see my crew with civilians and non-responders. This is one of the most positive groups anyone could be a part of.”
For more info on Neptune Warrior and how you can participate, visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OperationNeptuneWarrior .