Convincing doctors he was capable of diving, Carl was “officially” called up to the Deep-Sea Diving School. For one week, under the watchful, doubting eyes of his superiors, Carl did the impossible: diving, running and doing calisthenics.
Passing that hurdle, Carl had to prove himself for one full year. Chief Warrant Officer Raymond K. Duell (not the fictional character “Billy Sunday” in the movie Men of Honor) evaluated Carl to make sure he was up to the challenging grind of a Navy Diver.
Carl demanded of himself what most people could never demand. Wearing a Mark V, which weighed about 200 pounds, he climbed ladders and did dives in the tank. (Follow the link to view Cuba Gooding, Jr. portraying Carl in a Mark V helmet.) Wearing the full Mark V helium/oxygen suit, which weighed nearly 300 pounds, Brashear had to take at least twelve steps on the surface. To prepare for that, Carl made sure his legs were strong enough.
Sometimes I would come back from a run, and my artificial leg would have a puddle of blood from my stump. I wouldn’t go to sick bay. In that year, if I had gone to sick bay, they would have written me up. I didn’t go to sick bay. I’d go somewhere and hide and soak my leg in a bucket of hot water with salt in it - an old remedy. Then I’d get up in the morning and run.
Not only did he do the exercises himself, he would frequently lead the sailors in their workouts. They had no idea Carl was an amputee until they saw him swimming in the pool, weeks later.
Duell continued his relentless expectations of Brashear’s performance.
You know, that man drove me every day, every cotton-picking day. I did it every day - weekends and all. At the end of that year he wrote the most beautiful letter. Boy, that was something. I was returned to full duty and full diving - the first time in naval history for an amputee.
While it was a great achievement for Carl to become the Navy’s first amputee diver, he still had not achieved his goal. He wanted to be the first black master diver. He didn’t have much longer to wait.