By Ryo Isobe, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan – Students from Yokosuka Middle School visited the Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) dive locker as part of an educational field trip, May 13, 2016. During their visit, they learned what Navy divers do and how their job keeps the 7th Fleet operationally ready.
SRF-JRMC provides ship maintenance and modernization for Commander, Naval Forces Pacific and U.S. Pacific Fleet using advanced industrial techniques. The command’s Navy military and Japanese Master Labor Contract divers supported this trip to inspire and facilitate students’ understanding of U.S. Naval military roles and occupations.
“This is a good opportunity for students to know what U.S. Navy divers do,” said Chief Navy Diver Jose Nunez. “I think this is their first time to learn directly about our jobs and see equipment like the training tank, decompression chamber and remote operational vehicle [ROV]. It must be exciting for them!”
The trip was conducted in conjunction with the school’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum, where students are treated to various presentations across Yokosuka Naval Base and nearby landmarks. STEM is an interdisciplinary educational program based on the four disciplines, equipping students with critical thinking skills to solve challenging and complex problems.
“We do this kind of field trip once a year,” said Tammy Mattson, a Yokosuka Middle School teacher. “Since students’ parents or families here are somehow related to the Navy, this is a good chance to see what kind of jobs Navy personnel are doing.”
Exposing the students to different professional cultures was one of the goals of the visit, said YMS teacher Joy Bork.
“This gives students exposure to the culture and atmosphere we have here on [Yokosuka] base,” said Bork. “This experience may inspire or motivate them to seek Naval careers. It expands their choice of trades and capabilities in the future. It may be exciting especially for female students, because this type of experience is rare for them.”
The tour around the dive locker included demonstrations of how divers move in the training pool with diving equipment, a lesson about decompression, and how ROVs work in the water. Some students had opportunities to manipulate the ROV using a remote control device.
“They are surprisingly good at controlling the ROV,” said Nishimura Norihisa, dive locker engineering technician. “They must have gotten used to it by playing video games.”
According to Nishimura, the ROV is used at the command to investigate and survey small spaces or dangerous areas around ships underwater that would be too dangerous for humans.
Deep Sea Diver and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Justin Starling explained to the students what a decompression chamber was and why it was very important at the dive locker.
“We treat people who are damaged by diver’s sickness here in this chamber,” Starling said. “Since the pressure in the deep sea is extremely high, if a diver comes up to the surface too quickly, the oxygen in their veins or arteries bubble up in the body and clog blood vessels. In this chamber, we control air pressure with the appropriate quality oxygen to treat people with this disease.
“Fortunately though, in the past three years, we have treated only three casualties in the chamber. That’s because the U.S. Navy puts safety first, and we have a lot of training and guidelines to avoid trouble.”
Some students seized the chance to put on a diving helmet and experience what it feels like wearing it. “It was hot and steamy,” one of the students said. “And it was so heavy, but it was easier to breathe than I first thought.”
“Divers are cool and awesome,” another student said. “It was great to get to speak directly to Navy divers.”
Additionally, the middle school students visited various places on- and off-base to learn about STEM fields and careers. Some students toured aboard USS Antietam (CG 54) or the Imperial Japanese Navy ship Mikasa, while others enjoyed an excursion to Monkey Island (Sarushima) or a fire station.