CDA Technical Institute's Commercial Diver Program


CDA Newsletter – Summer 2011

Many changes in the past year!


CDA moved into their new building in March and now we have brand new classrooms and a state-of-the-art conference room.  The Administrative offices are now all on one floor, allowing the staff to work much more efficiently.  Also, both floors have bathrooms, which is a major improvement.  Thanks to Captain Black and David Weisman for providing such a nice work environment!  Thank you to all of the students who helped us out during the move.  The old building will be renovated to house the new hat room, an NDT training facility, as well as the new student dorms. 

As another demonstration of CDA’s commitment to excellence, we have brought in a new food service provider, The DC Group.  Owner, Doreen Cook, says “I look forward to serving the CDA student body and encourage all feedback!”

With all of the new regulations that have been coming out since last fall, it is more important than ever for graduates to report where they are working back to CDA.  Graduates can easily submit their employer information online at, or contact us Toll Free
888-974-2232.  Thank you for submitting that information to us - it is a vital part of our continuing ability to have federal financial aid for future students!

New Employees and Positions:

Since our last newsletter, CDA has hired new staff and several positions have changed.

Travis Washington is originally from Oklahoma and is a former Naval aviation boatswain’s mate equipment operator. He was a part of Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and was a part of the Tsunami relief in Indonesia. Mr. Washington graduated from a technical welding school and was valedictorian of his class. He is experienced in SMAW, GMAW, FCAW and GTAW, as well as oxy-fuel cutting, plasma cutting and arc-gouging. Mr. Washington has work experience in heavy fabrication, stainless and aluminum TIG and was an ironworker building commercial buildings. Mr. Washington is an instructor in the Maritime Welding Program and teaches welding in the Air/Mixed Gas diving program.

Lee Allrid retired from the US Navy as a Deep Sea Diver with 22 years of service. While in the Navy, he qualified as an Unlimited Diving Supervisor, Diving and Salvage Warfare Specialist, Saturation Diver, CraftMaster, and Divers Life Support System Quality Assurance Officer.  He was assigned as an instructor at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center, the Navy Experimental Diving Unit, Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Units, and Naval Special Warfare Units.  After his retirement in 2007, he has worked as a Mixed Gas Diver on projects involving salvage, pipelines, and oil rig inspections. Mr. Allrid has also worked as a Diving Supervisor for Mixed Gas, Hazmat, and confined space dives. After 25 years, he has put his helmet on the shelf and decided to give his knowledge and worldwide experience to a new generation of diving professionals at CDA's Deep Water Training Center in Ocala, FL.

Ken Shelley began his career as a commercial diver in 1980. He worked in Southeast Asia with extensive involvement in jacket replacement, underwater burning, hyperbaric welding, and inspection.  His qualifications include: Bell/Saturation Diver, Air/Mixed Gas Commercial Diver, Diver Medic; NASE, PADI, and NAUI certified Scuba Diver, and AWS Structural Steel Welder. He also has experience in NDT and MPI.  Mr. Shelley is a CDA Deep Water Training Center Dive Supervisor.


Drew Duffy is a Veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving for nine years as a helicopter crew chief, flight instructor and trainer. Over the last 14 years, he has worked for post-secondary educational institutions & regional workforce development organizations. He has held assorted positions such as Business Office Manager, Corporate Trainer, Employment Specialist, Employer Liaison and Director of Graduate Services. He is a member of the American Welding Society and an active player in the Northeast Florida Section. Drew was recruited to CDA because of his welding industry and educational experience and is currently the Admissions Specialist for the Maritime Welding Program. His duties include recruiting and placement assistance.

Heather Hodges is originally from Greenville, South Carolina.  She graduated from Lander University with a Bachelor’s degree in math, where she ran cross country all four years, and received a Master’s degree from Clemson University in math.  Heather brings experience as a math teacher and financial aid processor to CDA as the Financial Aid Administrator. 



Rick Jolly attended Memphis State University. He is a US Army Veteran and a native of Arkansas. He has held licenses in real estate in several states and has held management positions in the RV and marine industries. Mr. Jolly has also lived and worked in several foreign countries. Mr. Jolly is currently the Divers Certification Board of Canada (DCBC) Assessment Coordinator.



Mack Fogle is a native Floridian and made his first scuba dive in 1972 in the Abaco Islands, Bahamas. He joined the US Navy and after a tour of active duty, he attended the Florida Institute of Technology’s Commercial Diving Program in 1982.  He became qualified as an Air/ Mixed Gas Surface Supply Commercial Diver. Upon graduation he went to work for Gulfstream Divers providing a wide scope of services to the nuclear power industry in South Florida. Mack is a qualified Law Enforcement Officer, Heavy Equipment Operator, Licensed Professional Surveyor and Mapper and he is a graduate of CDA’s Maritime Welding program. Most recently, he worked for Blackwater Divers Inc. as a commercial diver and hydrographic mapper, before becoming an instructor and assisting with placement for the Maritime Welding Program.

Brandon Hillaker is a graduate of Commercial Diving Academy and has spent the last few years working in the Gulf of Mexico.  His has experience with all major aspects of construction, including wet welding, underwater burning, and topside welding and burning.  He also has experience with pipelines, barge support, bridge construction, excavation, inspection, subsea assemblies, repair abandonments, hot taps, meteorology, and spool design.  His certifications include U.S. Department of Transportation Operator Qualified, Safe Gulf, and Confined Space Rescuer.  Brandon is currently an instructor for the Air/Mixed Gas Commercial Diving Program.

Foster Akins is a recent graduate of CDA and is a certified NASE Scuba Instructor.  He is a fifteen-year resident of Jacksonville and has an extensive background in construction.  His ten years of experience includes heavy equipment operations, pipeline installations, inspections, surveying and mapping.  He is currently an assistant instructor for the Air/Mixed Gas Commercial Diving Program and conducts open-water diving for the NASE Scuba Instructor program.


Francois Pelletier is a Veteran of the U.S. Army. At the age of 26, he had his own contracting firm and concrete company. After ten years in the housing business, he decided to get involved with racing and the marketing of racing teams.  He joined Team Scuba and is helping to pave their way into NASCAR.  In August of 2011, he joined CDA with multiple responsibilities, including working with diving students with their equipment. Francois also functions as NASE Worldwide’s Process Coordinator and in the near future will be developing the ScubaLife business model.


Grant Hibbard, Lead Diving Instructor, has assumed the responsibilities of Director of Training and placement.  He will now be splitting his time between teaching and assisting all diving students with placement.

Shari Weisman was promoted to Director of Compliance.  She will be ensuring we are compliant with all regulations and will be coordinating Student Services. 

Kathy Nichols moved to Registrar and will be handling all student records.

Employee News:

As some of you know, Dusty Harrison had heart surgery in January and he and his wife, Jeanine, wanted to thank everyone for their prayers and support during and following the operation.  He is thrilled to report that his recovery is going as planned and he anticipates no other surprises.

In June, Walt Joslyn attended the Canadian Standards Association meeting in Victoria, British Columbia.  He completed the Canadian diving safety standards periodic update. He is now working on the standard for hyperbaric facilities (clinical operators) and will be doing a presentation on it in November in Ontario.

Michael Merchant’s wife Jillian is 5 months pregnant with their second child and they are going to keep the sex of the baby a surprise!

FAPSC Conference:

At the beginning of August, Shari Weisman, and Lauren Imhulse attended the annual Florida Association of Post-Secondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) Conference.  It was Shari’s first conference, which took place at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort and Club in Fort Lauderdale.  They learned about all of the new regulations pertaining to Administration, Compliance, Admissions and Financial Aid.  Allen learned the importance of CDA’s involvement in our local community.  CDA currently hosts monthly blood drives and CDA is a member of St. Johns Riverkeeper. Shari learned teaching and retention techniques, focusing on creating a comfortable environment for students.  Lauren learned about the changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which will be a tremendous help to veterans, and these are posted on the Financial Aid page of our websites ( and

Michael Bach Memorial Fund

The Commercial Diving Academy/Michael Bach Memorial Fund was established in July 2010. Michael was a 2009 graduate of CDA. Michael was a diligent student with a great passion for the school, their staff, instructors, and his classmates. Michael worked hard to be the best he could be and help his CDA brothers to do the same. It was his new mission in life to become a successful commercial diver. Michael tragically passed away on July 19th 2010 after a short battle with a brain tumor.

The objective of the Commercial Diving Academy/Michael Bach Memorial Fund will be to provide financial assistance to a deserving candidate who is deemed to have same qualities and passion to become a commercial diver as Michael did. With your support it is our intent to reward someone this scholarship on an annual basis.  For more information, please visit:

Update on the EMT/DMT Program

Since the last newsletter, the EMT/DMT program has been moving forward in leaps and bounds.  Thanks to the new building, we have a brand new classroom.  The new classroom has provided ample room for the ever-growing number of students now taking EMT/DMT, both current CDA and past students.  It also allowed the instructors to update much of the training equipment.  The instructors introduced more lectures and practical aspects of what a DMT may see out in the field, which has made the DMT graduates more marketable to the dive companies.

So what is in the plans for the future?
CDA has had several calls from both companies and past students about Continuing Education Credits and refresher EMT/DMT courses.  CDA is actively pursuing a way to help both the student and the dive companies in this area.  The instructors are considering conducting four one-week refresher courses per year, which would include both EMT/DMT subjects, with some clinical time.
If you are interested in possibly taking a refresher class, please contact Mick Parkinson at and do please ask any questions or make suggestions for subjects that you feel need to be covered.

Offshore Dive Trips

Travis Allinson has started taking offshore dive trips with CDA students. 

Here is the story of the first dive trip in Travis’ words:

“Back in June we took our first offshore dive trip here in Jacksonville. Six students and I met early on a Saturday morning and loaded up our dive gear and headed for Mayport to catch a ride on the Native Diver II for a day of diving and fun. The weather was a little foggy as we headed out the jetties but the seas were calm and the water was clear.
Our first dive site was about an hour and a half ride out. Captain Steve told us it was called the “Bus Stop Barge.”  It was an old barge that lay in about 70 feet of water and is rusting away which left plenty of holes to be able to dive inside. There were plenty of fish and jelly fish to keep everyone entertained.  We did an hour surface interval as we headed back in to our next dive site. We anchored up on an old steamer tug that was missing the superstructure and deck. The depth was about 60 feet and with a big boiler to hide in the reef, which was teaming with all kinds of fish.  We got back to the docks about noon, got all our gear loaded up and went to lunch, before heading back to the school to unload, clean and put up the gear.  I can’t wait to see how this grows and all the great adventures we’re going to have.  Thanks to Mike, Jake, Kyle, Bobby and Mitch. I had a great time and hope to dive again with you soon.”

Commercial Diving Academy Partners with Mariners Learning System to Offer Online Captain's License Training Programs

Commercial Diving Academy has teamed up with Mariners Learning System to offer our customers a way to enhance their boating knowledge or start a career in the marine industry. The new partnership offers a suite of six US Coast Guard-approved online captain’s licensing courses, from “six pack” to master 25/50/100 ton licenses, that can be taken online in the comfort of your home or on the road and at your own pace.  The Mariners Learning System incorporates broadcast quality, on-demand audio lectures, professionally produced training videos and online computer-based training. Access to online instructors is included and each instructor is a Coast Guard-licensed master who has gone through a rigorous Coast Guard approval process. In addition, toll-free telephone support and access to staff instructors is provided.

Upon completion of a course, taking a proctored exam, and meeting other requirements such as documenting sea time and passing a physical examination, CDA students simply submit, within one year, the application package to the nearest Coast Guard Regional Exam Center and upon review and approval, they will issue the license. To date, the system has trained more than 15,000 students with a 98.7% exam pass rate with an average grade of 94%.
Captain John Luchka, Director of Sales and Marketing for Mariners Learning System, said, "Partnering with Commercial Diving Academy offers their students a way to become an educated and safer boater first and foremost, and if their student chooses to use their license professionally as a dive boat operator they have the option to do so.” CDA customers will save 25% on all courses and can now order USCG approved online courses by going to  or and clicking the Mariners Learning System link.

Become a NASE Scuba Instructor

Interested in making some additional money during your downtime between assignments? Consider working as a National Academy Scuba Educators (NASE) diving instructor. CDA offers complete training for commercial divers to become scuba instructors at its Deep Water Training Center. Resorts and dive boats are seeking well-qualified instructors to work either short or long term assignments. Training is easy, affordable and convenient. 

The National Academy of Scuba Educators is the choice for professional divers; it is the only training agency to offer commercial scuba programs through open water diver and extreme scuba training. No matter what your goal is, NASE will give you the skills and competency to reach your goals - underwater. Diving is a lifestyle - live it!

For Prospective Students:

CDA Admissions Representatives can answer all of your questions about our fast-paced training programs, including the Air/Mixed Gas Commercial Diving Program and the Maritime Welding program.

We have also upgraded the Maritime Welding Program website ( with enhanced graphics, graduate testimonials, pictures, videos and additional program information.   If you are now ready to start down the path to a rewarding career, please give Admissions a call at 877-974-2232 to schedule a tour to come see the campus!