Navy divers bring the ocean to the state fair

By Cameron Mattern
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — A small crowd of people, many of them children, gathered around a massive tank of water to see something not so familiar to the Hoosier state.

The Navy Divers and their mobile dive tank have been posted up in the MetroPCS Family Fun Park at the Indiana State Fair throughout the week. People can use devices to talk to the divers while they are in the tank and play tic-tac-toe on the glass with the divers.

“We have been able to show the people of Indiana something that they have never been exposed to before,” said Navy Diver First Class Jason Thurston.

The divers are at the fair as a part of Navy Week. The celebratory week started in 2005 and is used as an outreach program for areas of the country that may not have a significant Navy presence and teach them about how important the U.S. Navy is and what exactly it is they do. This year Indianapolis is one of 15 cities selected to host.

These Navy divers are also on the move most mornings, visiting local schools and showcasing their skills and equipment.

“Most of the kids in the area schools have never really been exposed to diving in any form whatsoever,” said Thurston. “We’ve taught almost 600 kids so far and there’s only been a couple of teachers that have actually dove.”

Paul, 36, of Indianapolis, played tic-tac-toe with the divers at the fair and checked out the equipment that the divers brought with them.

“My brother served in the Navy so we saw the setup and wanted to introduce my son to different ideas. A lot of respect for these guys,” he said.

Thurston, who has been a diver for eight years, has been deployed to West Africa, the Mediterranean and Bahrain. He said he is attached to a salvage company right now and has recovered a World War II aircraft among other things.

Thurston has been impressed with the turnout at the fair.

“So far, our experience has been overwhelmingly great,” Thurston said. “It gives my junior guys an opportunity to present the equipment they use day in and day out and get to answer questions.”

The divers will be at the state fair this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Thurston said the divers will do a night dive on Saturday with different colored water and other surprises.

Cameron Mattern is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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