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Olympic divers travel to the Top of the World to thank service members

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – Olympic silver medalist Sam Dorman greets Airmen of the 821st Air Base Group at Thule Air Base, Greenland, Jan. 21, 2017. Dorman visited the Top of the World with fellow Olympian Troy Dumais as part of the “Dive Into Service” program, which launched last year. (Courtesy photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – Olympic silver medalist Sam Dorman greets Airmen of the 821st Air Base Group at Thule Air Base, Greenland, Jan. 21, 2017. Dorman visited the Top of the World with fellow Olympian Troy Dumais as part of the “Dive Into Service” program, which launched last year. (Courtesy photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – Sam Dorman, 2016 Olympic silver medalist, greets members of the 821st Air Base Group at Thule Air Base, Greenland, Jan. 21, 2017. Dorman and Troy Dumais, four-time Olympian, visited the Top of the World as part of the “Dive Into Service” program. (Courtesy photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – Sam Dorman, 2016 Olympic silver medalist, greets members of the 821st Air Base Group at Thule Air Base, Greenland, Jan. 21, 2017. Dorman and Troy Dumais, four-time Olympian, visited the Top of the World as part of the “Dive Into Service” program. (Courtesy photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- Divers Sam Dorman and Troy Dumais know how it feels to be on top of the world.

Each had the heady experience of winning an Olympic medal and standing on the podium. Dorman took silver at the Rio 2016 Games in 3-meter synchro while Dumais earned bronze four years earlier in London in the same event.

On Jan. 19 they had the rare privilege of physically being so close to the North Pole, Dorman said, “that the polar bears don’t want to go there. We went out to see the Northern Lights, and they were the Southern Lights because we were so far north we had to look south.”

He and Dumais traveled to Thule Air Base on the top end of Greenland as part of the “Dive into Service” program earlier this month. Launched last year by USA Diving, the program encourages athletes to build relationships with military service members and share kindred experiences as representatives of the United States.

“That was a trip of a lifetime,” Dorman said. “The fact that we were going to Greenland, of all places, how amazing is that? Not many people ever get to go there, so I was kind of blown away by that.”

The divers flew to Baltimore and boarded a chartered military plane that is also fitted to carry cargo. The flight was about six hours to Thule, which is 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle and is the U.S. Armed Forces’ most remote military base.

USA Diving, in conjunction with American300 Tours, began “Dive into Service” last Sept. 11, with Dumais visiting the Air Force’s 21st Space Wing located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The four-time Olympian was eager to sign on for another trip.

“We need to thank them,” Dumais said of the service members. “They’ve gone out of their way for us. Every Airman and every service unit in the United States has protected our freedoms to the point where I can do my diving and my traveling. And as professional athletes, giving up what we gave up, that inspires them.

“And when we go up there and personally thank them for what they do, it makes it easier for them to do what they do. It’s a lifelong achievement for me and for them, and they’re going to remember that.”

Dumais has personal ties to the military. His older brother Justin, who was his partner at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games in 3-meter synchro, is an F-16 fighter pilot for the South Carolina Air National Guard. Dumais’ uncle and his fiancée’s father were also in the service and he was friends with Chris Kyle, upon whom the movie “American Sniper” was based.

Dive into Service is a year-round, two-way exchange program and will subsequently include the other branches of the military.

The commitment, training, intensity and pressure-driven nature of military service and top-level athletics provide common ground for participants.

“We really sat down and swapped stories and kind of got a feel for what they’ve learned throughout the years and what we’ve learned and how similar it is,” Dorman said. “They all travel the world just like we do and experience different things. The adrenaline rush that you get, it’s a similar mentality.

“I think they enjoyed it because they don’t have anybody ever come visit them – ever. They were so excited because we didn’t cancel. They’ve had multiple people cancel because it’s just so hard to get up there.”

Greenland is the world’s largest island that is not a continent. It is an autonomous Danish dependent territory.

The mission of Thule Air Base, which reports to the 21st SW, is to provide early warning and defense of ballistic missile launches against the United States and southern Canada to the North American Aerospace Defense Command and JCS Command Centers. The 12th Space Warning Squadron also detects and tracks polar orbiting satellites in support of operational space surveillance and space control missions.

While on base, Dorman participated in a training scenario. “The computer would alert you – for me it was 58 missiles were incoming,” he said. “You pick up the phone and you have this dialogue to go through, answering a bunch of questions, warning the U.S. we had incoming missiles.

“I had no clue what I was doing, of course. I had to do it in less in 60 seconds, and I did it in 42, so basically I saved the world.”
They did tour other parts of the base. The divers saw as much as they could during their 25 hours on the ground, although they were in almost constant darkness.

“We had 20 minutes of miniscule daylight where we could see stuff,” Dumais said. “You can barely see in front of you, but when that light came out, you could see the iceberg, you could see the hill and the ground. It was phenomenal.”

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui