Army Scuba School, Badges, & Requirements

The Army Scuba School, also known as the Combat Diver Qualification Course, is a school for the best of the best in the Army! It’s a badge you won’t see very often unless you are assigned to a Ranger or Special Forces unit. During my 15+ years in the Army, I’ve only seen three Soldiers wearing the prestigious Army Scuba Badge.

If you’re considering a career in Special Operations, or want to serve as an Army Diver, this information is for you!

Army Scuba School Overview

Here’s a brief overview of Army Scuba School.

  • The school is seven weeks long, although it started out as a four-week course.
  • The school started in the mid to late 1960s.
  • It’s also known as the Combat Diver Qualification Course.
  • It’s said to be the most difficult Army School.
  • The school is located at the JFK Special Warfare Center in Florida.
  • 1 out of every 3 candidates fail the course.
  • It’s open to Ranger qualified and Special Forces qualified NCOs.
  • Students require a grade of 85% or higher to pass the course.
  • One of the toughest parts of the school is the “drown proofing” where candidates arms and legs are bound together, and they must perform a variety of tests.
  • There is a rigorous pre-test that candidates must complete at their home station unit prior to attending the school.

Bottom line up front: it’s tough and most people don’t finish! It’s for the best-of-the-best.

What is an Army Diver?

Yes, the Army has divers! It’s not just the amazing Navy Seals you see in movies…

As a Diver, you’ll have the unique skills to conduct reconnaissance, demolition, and salvage underwater. You’ll also assist with underwater construction and specialize in either scuba diving or deep-sea diving. You’ll support special warfare and explosive ordnance disposal troops while using diving. ~

Army 12D MOS

If you’re lucky, you can enlist in the Army as a 12D. This MOS is for Army Divers. It’s quite rare. There’s a good chance when you enlist, it won’t be available. In either case, here are some things you should know about it.

An Army Diver does underwater reconnaissance, demolition, and salvage for the Army. To qualify for the 12D MOS, you must:

  • Score a 106 or higher on the ST portion of your ASVAB
  • Score a 98 or higher on on the GM portion of your ASVAB
  • And you must score a 107 or higher on the GT portion of your ASVAB

In addition, you must be a U.S. citizen and have a clean criminal history. Upon completion of Basic Training, your AIT is 29 weeks long. Once you graduate AIT, you will be qualified as an Army Diver.

Different Units with Army Divers

A variety of units in the Army have divers. This includes the Army Rangers, Delta Force, Army Engineer Divers, the Corps of Engineers, and Special Forces. If you become an Army diver, you could serve in ANY of these units (if you meet certain requirements).

Brief History of the Army Diver School

Army Scuba Diving is not a new thing. In fact, it’s been around nearly 70-years now!

Following the establishment of SF (Special Forces) in 1952 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, scuba was one of many specialized skills eventually added to the SF portfolio. With no dive school of their own, Army SF soldiers formed clubs, attended the U.S. Navy Underwater Swimmers course, or created their own ad-hoc training programs. By 1963, SF formalized an underwater operations requirement to support “clandestine infiltration and attack of targets” during the conduct of Unconventional Warfare.5 Accordingly, in 1965, the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center consolidated existing ‘in-house’ SF dive training as the SF UWO course at Key West, Florida. ~ Ars of

United States Army Diving Badges

There are numerous diver badges you can qualify to earn. They are:

  1. Salvage Diver

  2. Second Class Diver

  3. First Class Diver

  4. Master Diver

Special Operations Diver Badges

Special Operations in the United States Army can entail circumstances that call for a diversity of talents. You may need to free-fall from a plane and open your parachute close to the ground, but that ground may be the ocean, and you need to get to a submarine below the surface.

Only the elite special operations soldiers who have diver badges will be able to complete this mission. There are two diver badges an Army Special Ops soldier can earn. They are:

  1. Special Operations Diver

  2. Special Operations Dive Supervisor

The designs of these badges are quite similar, with the Supervisor badge having a star in the middle of it. The design is a stealth diving helmet surrounded by two sharks. Behind are two Fairbairn-Sykes daggers (World War II fighting knives) in the saltire cross fashion.

Earning Your Badge

To be blunt, this course does not have room for any weakness. When the Army says GO STRONG, they sure mean it when it comes to the diving courses.

Before a soldier will attend the primary course, the Army has found that “weeding out” possible drop outs was wise. For two to three weeks, the soldier will be involved in a pre-scuba course which tests the soldier and builds them in strength and endurance.

In a simple swimming pool, you will swim for long distances, practice water confidence drills, and other drills you will need to be able to endure the main course.

If you pass this testing you will then be on your way to Fleming Key and The Key West Naval Air Station for the CDQC (Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course).

When reaching this place, you may suddenly think you were sent to hell, but no, you are in the Florida Keys for six weeks of intensive combat dive training. Some of what you will face at CDQC is:

  • Intensive exercise programs every morning.

  • Classroom instruction that will show you subjects such as: diving tables, marine life dangers, repairing regulators, currents & tides, chamber pressure testing, CPR, and much more. Note taking is a must, as you will be tested.

  • Start in pool with tying knots underwater, dive procedures and inspection, ditching equipment, and more.

  • Maritime duties and operations. You will learn about bundle rigging, submarine lock-ins and lock-outs, recovery operations, ship bottom searches, infiltration, deep diving, and more.

  • Open ocean swims. You will swim for long distances in the ocean both on top and timed sub-surface swims.

  • Closed circuit swims using a re-breather rigging.

This is just a partial look at what you will endure. On the last days of the course, you will conclude with a Field Training Exercise and final examination.

If you pass all of these requirements, you will be presented with your Special Operations Diver Badge.

Special Operations Dive Supervisor

As a supervisor, your job will be in planning, coordinating and supervising Special Operation’s dives. There is a three week long course for this badge. The subject matter goes deeper into subjects you learned in the basic course.

The primary goal is to have the supervisor familiar with any and all types of diving equipment. They must also understand diving physics, and subjects like tides and currents at an expert level.

It is believed that those seeking the supervisor badge will also have to wear twin air tanks and parachute from a plane with other assorted equipment into a shark DZ. Do you have the guts?

Final Thoughts

In review, the Army Scuba School, aka the Combat Diver Qualification Course is a great school for someone who loves scuba diving, adventure, and would like to serve in Special Operations. It’s by no means easy. In fact, attending and graduating this course might just be the hardest thing you have ever done before. However, if you’re up for it, I can’t think of any other career in the Army as rewarding as this would be.

What are your thoughts? Have you attended the Army Scuba School? If so, what was your experience like? Did you earn an Army Diver Badge? If so, leave a comment below to share your story. I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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7 thoughts on “Army Scuba School, Badges, & Requirements”

  1. My buddy went to this school about four years ago and he told me it was even harder than Ranger School. I’ve watched a few of the YT videos for the school and it doesn’t look very easy, especially if you aren’t comfortable in the water.

    1. I read a couple of articles that use the word “grueling” to describe the school. It’s run by C Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Drown proofing is apparently the toughest part. Drown proofing involves exercises such as being bound hand and foot in velcro straps and bobbing in 10 feet of water for five minutes. If soldiers break their straps or touch the sides of the pool, they fail. It is clear you must be in top shape to endure the physical demands of the course.

  2. I would love to attend the Army’s Scuba School. My hope is that after I graduate Ranger School I will be able to attend this one, too.

  3. My brother attended the Army Scuba School about five years ago, a few short months after completing Ranger School. He said that this was the toughest military school he ever went to.

    1. The Scuba School looks really tough. I’m not sure if I could pass the test where you tie your legs together and tie your hands behind your back and bob up and down all that time. I would probably drown.

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