While some reach new heights, one Graves County High School graduate reached new depths after enlisting last year.
Ed Bales said his 18-year-old son wanted to go into the U.S. Army, but opted for a small and very difficult part of the military branch.
Zach Bales was the only one out of 15 trainees to complete the first phase on his journey to becoming a U.S. Army Engineer Diver. He completed phase one on Oct. 23.
Zach is currently stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, awaiting phase two and three of his training, Ed said. A U.S. Army veteran himself, Ed said that he was “extremely proud” of his son for his persistence and hard work.
“He’s always been the kind of kid that had a big heart, big dreams. He’s driven,” Ed said.
Zach’s grandmother, Sherry Nelson, was also very proud of him. She described her grandson as a “fun loving” and “very active kid” who enjoyed wrestling and skeet shooting throughout school.
Ed, her son, was also from Graves County, having graduated high school in 1989
“I definitely was apprehensive, even when his father went into the Army. It’s scary, I didn’t know where he’d be or where he’d go, it’s a crazy world,” Nelson said.
Ed admitted that when his son first broached the prospect of enlistment, he was fully against it. Zach, however, “didn’t stop talking about it,” so his father recommended he speak with a recruiter, secretly hoping it would scare his son away from the military. But it just made Zach want it even more.
However, he noted that Zach, when dealing with recruiters, would stop just short of enlisting, and “held out” for something he found interesting. That turned out to be engineer diving.
While the class was initially full, Ed said the recruiters were so tired of dealing with Zach that they managed to get another slot added to the roster just for him.
With phase one complete, Zach will leave for Panama City, Florida in February to begin his next phase of training at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center.
According to a video on the USArmyRecruiting YouTube channel, Army divers are trained for a variety of missions in harsh environments, like maintaining watercraft propellers and hulls, installing and repairing underwater pipelines and mooring systems, conducting harbor salvage operations, and constructing or repairing ports and waterfront facilities. They are also trained on tools for underwater cutting and welding, operating and maintaining diving equipment, and how to handle and use explosives.
Because of the intensity of the training, Ed said it is one of the few military areas where trainees can drop out on request.