Divers’ Institute has a proud history of being veteran owned and operated since 1968, and is a military friendly and VA approved school. Over half our instruction staff have served in the armed forces and in every class we welcome veterans alongside non-veterans, offering guidance, education and support in their transition to civilian life and career. Matt Jones, ex-Fleet Marine Force Corpsman, DIT Light Weight and Rigging Instructor, as well as a Dive Medical Technician, chats with Kelsey about his post-military diving life.
(Kelsey): When did you enlist in the Navy and what made you decide to take the road of service to our nation?
(Matt): I joined the Navy in 1995 and served almost all of my ten years with the Fleet Marine Force. I took this path as my brother did, my father did, uncles, grandfathers, etc… The men in my family have been seafarers and members of the sea-going services for generations. It’s what we do.
When you separated from the military why did you decide to become a commercial diver and do your training at DIT?
I decided a week before I left the Navy in 2005 that I was going to attend DIT. I was sitting in the car thinking, “What in the hell am I going to do to feed my family next week?!?” A DIT commercial came on the radio… I thought, “Hey, I can do that. Beats having someone shoot at me for a living.”
Why do you think attending DIT is a good transition for people exiting the service?
There is a structure. It’s not as rigid a system as you find in the military, though. In diving you prove your leadership and skill and excel if you do. A college degree doesn’t automatically make you better. DIT’s training is just totally different from that – it’s hands-on, engaging, real-world. Some people aren’t cut out for the traditional college setting, which isn’t a slight to the officers out there – they joined and served too. That’s actually an opinion that’s really grown on me since a student (and former Marine Corps Captain), here at DIT, pointed it out to me.
Tell us about your career as a commercial diver, and why you think veterans are well-suited for a career in commercial diving?
I initially took work up in Alaska. I was, and still am, a union diver. I had the opportunity up there to see parts of that beautiful place that 99% of Alaskans don’t even get to see. I’ve also worked in the Gulf of Mexico, inland and offshore, domestically and internationally, and I’ve earned the right to call myself a diver and diving supervisor. Veterans will excel in this industry given the austere and sometimes spartan conditions available. Let’s face it, dive work doesn’t typically become available in the middle of town. And if it does… It’s not YOUR town. We travel. The work is out there; you just have to go to it because the work will not come to you. People who have been in military service understand that kind of work lifestyle pretty well!
As an instructor at DIT how do you help veterans in their transition to civilian life, and what advice do you have for veterans returning to civilian life?
While I encourage our students to develop a working relationship with one another and even a rank structure, to an extent, I often remind the students that this is not the military. In the military, we make people obey – under threat of penalty. Here at DIT we encourage students to develop their own potential. I have found through my time here at DIT that the military and non-military students tend to group up, but not into two distinct groups. Veterans and non-veteran students seem to find similarities while working and sometimes living with each other. This is the primary asset to our veterans in their transition. In my opinion this is also a benefit to the non-veterans in that they get to hear some stories (true or not so much) that will help them to appreciate their living and working conditions in the industry… “Hey, at least no one is shooting at me.”
This interview originally appeared on Divers Institute of Technology website.