Edgar Ponce made a splash June 3 when he decided to hold his Navy re-enlistment ceremony underwater.
Outfitted in an astronaut suit at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) at the Sonny Carter Training Facility, Ponce was immersed under water with help from several Navy comrades and astronaut Suni Williams. Ponce currently works as an NBL safety diver helping astronauts train in a weightless environment.
The ceremony began with Ponce’s friends and family joining Center Director Mike Coats to watch the ceremony on television from an observation room. While standing on a replica of the US lab of the International Space Station, men in military fatigues marched, or floated, Ponce front and center. Williams first presented him with his discharge papers and then swore him in as Petty Officer 2nd class into the U.S. Navy.
“It’s extremely fitting to discharge and re-enlist Edgar at the NBL,” Williams said. “It truly shows what we can do with a lot of cooperation.”
After the short re-enlistment ceremony was complete, the audience in the observation room erupted in applause while the under-water crowd made their silent gesture of congratulations. Ponce will remain on a reserve list with the Navy, and has no plans to deploy any time soon, his wife said.
NBL Chief of Facility Ronald Lee was happy to host the under-water affair.
“I thought this was a good way to honor the men and women in service,” he said.
As a former “Navy guy,” Coats also felt the ceremony was honorable. He said the Navy often finds unusual ways to celebrate their re-enlistments, and while having one under water “was unusual, it wasn’t unprecedented.”
“It’s a big deal to me personally,” Coats said. “I’m an old Navy guy so this is really special for me to see.”