Area fortunate to have professional dive team

By: 

Lorna Marquardt, Special to the Leader

“Seven days without swimming make one weak.” — Unknown

The Shawano County dive team started in 1984 when two sport divers from the Shawano Police Department, Sgt. Al Schultz and Sgt. Ed Whealon, volunteered to search for a 2-year-old child believed to have drowned in the Wolf River. The group has since evolved into a highly skilled and professional dive team with 11 members.

I visited with Shawano Police Chief Mark Kohl earlier this week. He commented, “The continued support and collaboration with the agencies involved make the dive team a valuable and cost effective public safety program.”

Chief Kohl continued, “Team members receive training and can become certified in advanced open water diving, public safety diving, swifter water rescue and recovery, ice rescue and ice diving, light salvage and recovery, and underwater evidence search and recovery. Several of the members have received various certifications.”

Members of the Shawano County dive team include dive team leader Pat Roberts (Shawano Fire Department), Assistant dive team leader Kurt Kitzman (Shawano Police Department), assistant dive team leader Bill Uelman (Shawano County Sheriff’s Department) Shane Stange (Shawano Police Department), Andrew Czarnecki (Shawano Fire Department), Mike Weatherwax (Tigerton Police Department) Jesse Sperberg (Shawano County Sheriff’s Department), Shawn Copsey (Shawano County Sheriff’s Department) Bill Mott (Shawano Fire Department), Brandon Winslow (Shawano Fire Department) and Jeff Zimmerman (Shawano Fire Department).

Assistant dive team leader Kurt Kitzman has been on the team for 10 years. “I never dove prior to joining the team,” he commented. “Now I do a lot of recreational diving. I am happy and proud to be a part of the team.

“Last year while on patrol, I responded to a call for help. A man was in the river and unable to get to shore. His face was barely above water.”

Kitzman was able to get a throw bag out to him and pull him to safety. He commented, “That situation could have easily become a recovery. Fortunately, I was at the right place at the right time.”

Kitzman acknowledged the recovery calls are difficult. He said family members express their gratitude for the closure it brings to them. Kitzman remarked, “Most calls come in as rescue calls, but before we get there, a call to cancel will come in. When that happens, it’s a good thing because the individual has either been pulled to safety or was able to get out unassisted.”

During the months April to September, training is mandatory. Various scenarios for rescue and recovery are part of the training. The team travels to different bodies of water. Trainings have taken place at Cloverleaf Lakes, Korth Lake, Red River and Wolf River. Training also occurs at the Shawano Recreation Center pool. Plans this summer will include training on the Upper Wolf River in Menominee County. During the months of October to March, although training is not a requirement, most members continue training in pools to keep themselves in good physical condition.

Kitzman commented, “It is important that we continue to practice our diving skills. It is difficult diving in the cold water, strong current and often with limited visibility. Training itself can be physically and emotionally exhausting. We need to continue to hone our skills and be ready if a call comes in.”

Thank you, Shawano County dive rescue team, for the services you provide.

The answer to last week’s trivia question — Who owned the Forest Hill Apartments in 1986? — is O.M. Rathie and Ursula Rathie.

This week’s question is: Who owned the Shawano News Agency located at 138 S. Main St. in 1959?

Lorna Marquardt is mayor of Shawano.