Veterans and first responders scuba dive as therapy

Posted at 7:40 AM, Feb 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-21 09:46:24-05

A unique program in the Treasure Valley is helping veterans and first responders by using scuba diving as therapy.

"A cool feeling to take that first under water breath," said Ben Winkler, U.S. Forest Service Wildland Firefighter. 

"It helps with motor skills, getting that calm that the water provides," exclaimed Winkler. 

He's been participating in Neptune Warrior for about a year. 

"It's my first diving experience in the pool here. It was really cool. It was eye opening. Incredible feeling under the water there," stated Winkler. 

Neptune Warrior is an organization to help veterans and first responders who live with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. 

"As a first responder, I've suffered TBI, stuff of that nature, so it's also beneficial to me to be under water to get the benefits that the veterans with PTSD are doing the same stuff," said Winkler. 

Rob Anderson, a veteran himself, wanted to give veterans and first responders a way to cope. He came up with concept while he was diving in Hawaii in 2016. 

"I know what diving did for me in my own struggles and my own battles with PTSD and the calm that it brought and then also working with other veterans who had received traumatic brain injuries or had combat wounds," said Rob Anderson, Neptune Warrior. 

Anderson teaches the basic concepts of how to breathe compressed air underwater. He then builds students up to relaxation and motor skill techniques. 

"It helps to block the stressor drugs that cause PTSD," said Anderson. 

Events are held weekly at the Boise State Recreation Center and the downtown Boise YMCA. 

Anderson says all of the equipment is donated and the organization is one-hundred percent non-profit.

"We're also the only organization that has had a diver in full PTSD at a trigger point that we've taken diving and we've seen the dramatic effect of being in that full on flash back or micro flash back and then going into a state of complete calm," exclaimed Anderson. 

Mitchell Bliss was in the army for six years. He found out about Neptune Warrior through Veteran's Services at Boise State and now he's one of the training assistants. 

"I think when you leave the military, you lose a lot of camaraderie that you have before and so when you find a group like this of people that are, have had similar experiences, it's really hard to beat and I think it just gives people that sense of belonging again that they may feel like they're missing out on," said Bliss. 

"See when we finish tonight, we all go and we find a place to eat and we have a family that sits down together. We don't always talk about that bad stuff. We talk about great things too," said Anderson. 

Anderson says his goal is to have his own facility within five years. If you would like to help by donating equipment, they will even come pick it from you. 

For more information on how to help, head to on Facebook.