Photo Information

Hanging from the ceiling of the AA Diving shop aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune are several scuba tanks of various sizes, colors and volumes. Red and white diving flags are a common ornament of diving gear.

Photo by Pfc. Timothy Solano

Scuba diving offers cool retreat from sunshine

8 Jul 2010 | Pfc. Timothy Solano

A first glance at Gottschalk Marina aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune may suggest that it is nothing more than a humble port, home to resident watercraft and the occasional American Alligator. It is what lies beneath, however, that keeps one particular industry in business.

Scuba diving is often perceived by such thematic elements as brass portholes, diver helmets, ship wheels and diver bells. This actively pursued pastime offers not only shiny bells and whistles to those who do it, but also provides an entirely new perspective of explorative opportunity aboard Camp Lejeune. The sport’s local following is a modest one, but that doesn’t take the enthusiasm from those who engage in it frequently.

Local dive shops, like AA Diving at Gottschalk Marina, offer an ideal haven for Marines and their dependents alike who seek an affordable way to explore the watery depths. Fortunately for those enthusiasts, the exploration doesn’t just stop at the New River; no, diving gear at shops like AA Diving can be rented and taken anywhere in the world.

Additionally, dive shops offer a full line of equipment sales, service and rentals, and are often completed by a small gift shop inside the main store. Domestic and international diver flags cover the walls and hang from the store ceiling, and on the back wall one can find a detailed list of rental costs and class schedules.

For divers interested in gear rental from the dive shop aboard base, payment of a daily rental fee allows any Department of Defense personnel or their dependents the privilege of taking their rented gear anywhere they want, as long as it is returned cleaned and operable. The shop also offers a dunk tank for renters to clean gear there if necessary.

But how do average people know what they’re doing if they’ve never used the gear they’re renting? Prior to rental, one has to be certified by a legitimate dive association like the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, or another recognized certifying agency. For first time divers, AA Diving offers classes that provide PADI certification upon completion.

The classes are offered at all times throughout the year, and are flexibly adapted to work with the schedules of any service member, spouse, retiree or DoD civilian interested in attending.

Beginning in early August, AA Diving is scheduled to offer shallow charters in the Morehead City, N.C. area for those already certified as an advanced diver, open-water diver, rescue diver, or dive master.

Though the venues for the base diving shop’s training are currently limited to the Camp Johnson pool and one privately owned pond, the times and upcoming charters made available make MCCS-sponsored diving classes a practical way to get PADI certified.

“We’ve got good venues, and we’re always willing to be flexible with the individual’s schedules,” said Kristi Bernot, owner and manager of AA Diving.

For more experienced divers who may have their own gear, most diving shops offer refills for scuba tanks, though they must be up to inspection and not past their working pressure capabilities. Additionally, valid certification for special nitrox tanks must be shown in order to fill them at a diving shop.

So what does scuba offer the Camp Lejeune community? Not only do the local dive shops present affordable, flexibly scheduled lessons for something unusual and interesting, but they also provide an ideal means of summer recreation for Marines and their families.  

For more information about upcoming diving classes on base, call 451-3790.