Brad qualifies as scuba instructor

A BRAVE soldier who was badly wounded in an explosion in Afghanistan has qualified as a scuba diving instructor while continuing to recover from his injuries.

Brad Hughes, 28, from Llandudno, was returning from a patrol in a fortified vehicle known as a Viking when it drove over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

The huge blast ripped through the vehicle, severely injuring Brad.

Miraculously he survived but he suffered six fractures and a dislocation to his right foot and more than three years later, he is still receiving treatment.

He enlisted for a pioneering rehabilitation scheme run by the Army Sub Aqua Diving Association (ASADA).

They train the military’s divers according to the rules and safety measures set down by the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC), the UK’s governing body for diving.

As a result, Brad is now the proud recipient of a BSAC Open Water Instructor’s qualification.

He is one of only two who have reached this incredible achievement through the programme, joined by his good friend and dive buddy, Peter Wesley.

Peter sustained complicated fractures to both of his legs during military training.

Both men have now been discharged from the army on medical grounds.

Their achievements have been celebrated back at the BSAC headquarters where the physical
and mental healing benefits of diving have been known about for a very long time.

Mary Tetley, BSAC chief executive, said: “Gaining your BSAC Open Water instructor qualification is an achievement in itself but to do so when battling a crippling injury which has had such a profound effect on your life is remarkable.

“I am so pleased for Brad and Peter and they are a great inspiration to all of our members.

“Diving is such a wonderful experience for so many reasons but some of the best ones have been echoed by Peter and Brad.

“It provides a great escape from the worries of the world, is brilliant physical and mental exercise and by joining any of the BSAC clubs dotted all over the UK and abroad, you will find a group of terrific new friends to share some unforgettable experiences with.”

Brad, who was a member of the Parachute Regiment and lives in Llandudno on the North Wales coast, said: “The frustration, pain and worry which I was feeling after being injured took me to a low point in my life because when you have been used to being fit and active and part of a very close knit team and suddenly that is taken away and you feel your army career is probably finished, it feels devastating.

“But the diving gave me some confidence and everything I was worried about on the surface, disappeared when I got to the bottom.

“All I had to concentrate on was where I was going and where my buddy was and being a new experience to me, it meant I was learning something new, every time I got in the water.

“It just allowed me to leave behind those worries I had about my injury and what the future held.”

“It had never even crossed my mind to try diving before. If I am honest, I was a bit wary of the idea of breathing underwater, but in the end I became really focused on taking it forward and learning.”

This determination became a crucial part of Brad’s rehabilitation and he credits it with helping him work through the pain and anguish of his injuries which halted a promising army career.

His friend, Peter, also 28, is only too aware of how his dive buddy feels, having made the same journey himself.

The former infantry soldier suffered crippling fractures to both legs during military training in the lead up to his own Afghanistan posting.

For six months he was unable to walk unaided at all and went from being a physically fit and active young man to sitting around while the rest of his regiment readied themselves for the job they had all training for together.

Peter, from Bury St Edmunds, who is married with a baby girl, said: “It was awful because all my mates were getting ready to go to Afghanistan and I was doing nothing.

“It just seemed so wrong to suddenly not be in that team, getting ready for what we had trained for all that time, and that is what broke me the most.

“I went from training to fight in a battlefield one day to sitting in a room doing nothing the next day so the offer of diving with ASADA gave me something to strive for.”

Peter, who now works as a part time game keeper and for his father’s company which makes equestrian cross country fences, believes his diving achievements have been crucial to his rehabilitation and understanding there is life outside the army.

He said: “It has given me new qualifications but probably more important than that is that it has given me a different way of life, a new passion which I can get stuck into and enjoy, just like the buzz I used to get out of being a soldier.

“And this qualification means I can give something back, help other soldiers learn to dive and realise that the excitement in life doesn’t stop just because you are injured.”

It was in 2008 that chairman of ASADA, Guy Wallis, a platoon commander during the Falklands War, first put forward the idea of using diving as rehabilitation for injured soldiers. He had continued to dive with a fellow soldier who had lost a leg during the same conflict and realised its benefits.

Soon afterwards the Battle Back team, a small military team of experts in rehabilitation through sport, physical training and adventure training activities, was formed. With their help, ASADA started to plan a series of try dives to understand better the needs of injured soldiers in the water learning to dive for the first time.

Expeditions are now organised twice a year to Malta and Cyprus with many of the worst injured servicemen and women gaining BSAC qualifications but none have come as far as Brad and his friend Peter. Funding is provided for Battle Back from the Help for Heroes charity.

John Gibbon, one of the main instructors and vice chairman and Diving Officer of ASADA, has been heavily involved with the programme since the start.

John, 59, from Salisbury, a former lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Artillery, said there were many medical and logistical hurdles to overcome when taking wounded and injured soldiers diving but it was worth all the paperwork to see the enormous joy and new found confidence of the servicemen and women who are able to dive away from the worry and pain of their injuries.

He said: “For these service men and women, it is a different world for them to escape to for a while.

“What you have to remember is that for many of them, this will be the first adrenaline rush they have experienced since being wounded and that is very much a positive thing.”

“These guys have been blown up, pulled out of close teams of fellow soldiers, who they have very close bonds with, and sustained terrible and damaging injuries both physically and mentally.

“Diving provides them with a very important physical release from their injuries and these soldiers want to do it. They do not want to be stuck lying in hospital beds, they want to be back being active, recovering from their injuries.

“It helps them to make new friends in a new world outside the army life they have previously led and this is very important to their overall rehabilitation following their injuries.”

Talking of Brad and Peter’s particular achievements, John said: “What they have achieved is, in my view, nothing short of fantastic. They started the programme as complete novices. Brad doesn’t even like the sea that much but they have both taken to it like the proverbial duck to water.”

The pair had to study hard to reach their goal and often sat up late into the night revising together on the theory side of the qualification.

To find out more about BSAC go to  or call free on 0500 947 202.



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