Nodaway County Sheriff Randy Strong and Maryville Public Safety have collaborated with the Midwest Regional Dive team to implement a training and certification program for divers to train closer to home.
The Midwest Regional dive team has assisted Nodaway County in the past, but it doesn’t always have a team ready and operational in the area. To resolve this issue, a Conception Junction, Missouri, man Chuck McIntosh, with the assistance of Emergency Management instructor John Carr, holds a weekly training for people interested in what goes into being on a dive team.
“We want to see a stand-alone dive team in this area, one that’s not separate from the Midwest Regional Dive team, just more readily available,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh sees 14 individuals each week in classroom training programs held Tuesdays and Thursdays in Valk Center on campus. So far, five women and seven men participate in the program.
McIntosh said recruitment has been positive among attendees and a good number have shown interest — enough that McIntosh is hopeful for a fully functional team to operate in the county in just two years.
“Randy Strong has been very helpful in getting this going,” McIntosh said. “We can tell he wants to see a dive team in Nodaway County.”
McIntosh, a 68-year-old diver, joined the Midwest Regional Dive Team in 2000 and became an instructor in 2008. He teaches recreational diving as well as public safety diving, which he said both provide a sense of accomplishment and thrill.
He led a team of recreational team members who traveled to the Carribean, diving in waters close to reefs, which McIntosh said was an experience of a lifetime.
“On the recreational side, we have an opportunity to get away from the aspects of public safety and see things of beauty,” McIntosh said.
In a Jan. 22 press release, Strong said Nodaway County, the fourth largest county in Missouri, has been in dire need of a consistent water rescue service. Traditionally serving the surrounding communities of its two physical locations in Clarina, Iowa, and Red Oak, Iowa, the Midwest Regional Dive team will now look to help fill the void of expertise for above and below water search in Nodaway County investigations.
Adding a team specifically in and for Nodaway County is what Strong said partnering with the Midwest Regional Dive Team was long overdue and is a step in the right direction.
“We’ve needed this for a long time,” Strong said. “With as many bodies of water we have in the area and as many flash flood warnings that have ensued, we need this.”
The Midwest Missouri Regional dive team has assisted the area before in cases of missing people on bodies of water, recovering victims who have drowned, provide evidence searches below water and other services local law enforcement asked for.
McIntosh said he enjoys instructing learners young and old and seeing them have a “lightbulb moment,” which he said in turn helps people gain more self-confidence.
“We are doing things that are thrilling and scary to volunteers at first,” McIntosh said. “But when they get in there and get their feet wet, it’s quite the experience.”
The Midwest Regional Dive team is funded largely through donations and grants. It does not have a dedicated budget for supplies or tools, but is rather composed of government and public organizations that control day-to-day operations.
Kenny Hammon, the incident commander for the dive team, oversees all operations of the group. He said the total team consists of volunteers from four Iowa departments: Red Oak Fire Department, Corning Fire Department, Cash County Sheriff’s Office, Clarinda Fire Department. Volunteers not associated with departments are also part of the team.
The departments share resources and supplies that the whole team uses to execute rescues, train and use recreationally.
Hammon said he is eager to instate a team in Nodaway County.
“I can’t wait for these guys to get trained and get them in the water this summer,” Hammon said. “That’s when it gets really fun.”
The whole team trains once a month together, usually in one of the Iowa locations. They also travel to Arkansas for certain training and certification processes.
There are two general certifications: open water and advanced open water. The biggest difference is that advanced open water requires a deep dive, usually up to 90 feet.
“In the deep dive we observe their bodily response to depth,” McIntosh said. “An instructor is with them as a guide.”
With his training in classrooms on campus, McIntosh said many begin in the recreational stage and move on to public safety when they are comfortable. Public safety is more intense for beginners because it involves helping victims.
“The whole atmosphere is different in those situations,” McIntosh said. “But with it does come the satisfaction of helping people.”
Emergency and disaster management majors are knowledgeable about the classes on campus, but McIntosh said he welcomes anyone who would like to volunteer. He also said the program is looking for people with medical backgrounds to volunteer to assist divers on shore when the team is executing dives.