SFC. Juan Pina leads an underwater reenlistment ceremony. (Screenshot via U.S Army W.T.F! Moments).

Over the years Task & Purpose has seen several strange, unusual, and sometimes just cool reenlistment or promotion ceremonies. Troops have reenlisted in a Game Stop and while taped to the turret of a howitzer. They’ve been promoted while standing in a bog. The troops who are reenlisting while scuba diving off the coast of Hawaii are definitely on the cool end of the spectrum. 

A video shared by U.S. Army WTF! Moments on social media shows soldiers in uniform, adorned with fins, masks and oxygen tanks, carrying out a reenlistment ceremony. One soldier raises his hand to recite the oath while several more hold an American flag up. 

The noncommissioned officer leading the ceremony and overseeing the scuba diving is Sergeant First Class Juan Piña. For the last two years Piña, a certified scuba instructor and a soldier with 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division has been taking troops into the waters off of Hawaii to give them a unique reenlistment day.

For Piña, a soldier who is in his 22nd year in the military, it started in part from his own love of scuba diving. Another noncommissioned officer started recommending that soldiers ask Piña to take them below the waves while they reenlist. started just with his unit but has expanded to other troops in the brigade and beyond. So far he’s taken more than a dozen service members underwater for their ceremonies, he told Task & Purpose.

“We do it all outside, right in front of the beach,” he said. “[The soldiers] do the oath, they take the pictures on the beach, their families are there with them. Then once they do the oath on the ground, I watch them [practice their scuba skills] outside the water. They have to do that before I can take them fully underwater. They put the gear, we take them to the buoy and they do the mandatory skills again. Once underwater, we recreate the oath underwater.”

Piña usually takes soldiers no more than 30 feet out , but for more advanced troops he goes out farther, to around 100 feet. There they do their reenlistment ceremonies near a shipwreck. That combination of the wreck and the American flag held up makes for a great scene, Piña said. 

Money that he’s made as a scuba instructor — he also teaches soldiers and their families how to scuba dive — has helped him build out his own personal collection of scuba equipment, which he uses for the reenlistment ceremonies. Troops don’t have to bring anything, although he said that if they have their own scuba masks he recommends taking that with them. Depending on certain skill levels, the whole event can be easy or have some challenges, he said. Piña admitted it’s not the usual reenlistment ceremony, but the underwater environment lends itself to memorable moments beyond just reupping for service.

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“Two reenlistment [dives] ago, we got to see dolphins swim by right on top of us,” Piña said. “For the soldiers it’s a big deal. They get to see turtles, sometimes they see a shark. These guys love it.”

As for the instructor, Piña said the enjoyment the soldiers have going underwater is what makes him happy. He told Task & Purpose that he loves teaching soldiers about scuba diving, and that he loves getting the opportunity to help them reenlist in a unique environment. He plans to keep doing it, and demand hasn’t slowed down. 

“I’ve got people scheduled for the next few months,” he said. “I’ve got another five reenlistments booked.” 

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