GROTON, Conn. – Master Chief Navy Diver Louis Deflice concluded his three-decade long career with the U.S. Navy in a jovial ceremony with his fellow divers onboard Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London, May 17.
A New Hampshire native, Deflice has loved diving since childhood and joined the Navy at the tail-end of the Cold War as a hardhat diver, eventually rising through the ranks to conclude his service as Naval Submarine School’s (SUBSCOL) Command Master Diver.
"I started diving around 13 years old in a lake in New Hampshire," said Deflice the day before his official retirement ceremony. "I always wanted to be a hardhat diver, but I looked at the training and it was way too expensive, but the Navy would pay me to go through the training. I could have left a long time ago and made way more money on the outside as a civilian diver, but I couldn’t leave all this behind. I joined the Navy for training, I stayed in the Navy for the people."
Among his many tours of duty, Deflice served at the Navy Experimental Diving Unit, where new underwater techniques and technologies are tested for their usefulness to the Navy’s mission. In a striking twist, Deflice would find himself on both sides of the laboratory glass during his Navy career.
"My last duty station was the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, Florida," said Deflice. "I was the CMC [Command Master Chief] there. That tour consisted of a lot of human subject research; experiments with people to help the Navy learn how to dive deeper for longer and to test and evaluate new equipment. I was actually there as a young diver long before I was command master chief, I was a young diver there myself! It was nice to be there as, I hate to say it, but a guinea pig, and then go back 20 years later as the CMC!"
For his final duty station, Deflice served as SUBSCOL Command Master Diver where he oversaw underwater training for future submarine Sailors.
"At SUBSCOL I am privileged to lead the team up at the pressurized submarine escape trainer, or PSET," said Deflice. "I lead the team there in ensuring the future submarine Sailors get the safest and most realistic pressurized submarine escape training in the world. This facility is the only one in the US Navy and I personally think ours is the best in the world."
Deflice officially retired from the Navy in a ceremony held in SUBASE New London’s on-base chapel, attended by family and fellow divers. Despite it being the end of his Naval service, the mood among Deflice and his shipmates was one of laughter and remembering good times and wild sea stories. Deflice was presented with a traditional shadowbox by his Sailors, and he and his family were ceremonially piped ashore. Deflice said the thing he has cherished most about the Navy has been the camaraderie and the relationships he has formed along the way.
"What I will take away most from the Navy is the relationships with all the great people I have been fortunate enough to work for and with," said Deflice. "That overshadows every single operational job and thing I have done. To work with such a fine group of American patriots has been very humbling and an incredible honor. And to do that for 30 years, I am a blessed man."
Deflice also stressed the importance his wife and family have played in his path to where he is today.
"I owe a tremendous amount of where I am today to my wife, Dale, and my two sons, Sam and Max," said Deflice. "Dale has been such a supportive partner. She allowed me to give the Navy everything while she took care of my family and I’m forever grateful for that. I would not have made it without her. We have been married 21 years and she has been through all of this with me."
His Naval career might be finished, but Deflice said he himself is not done diving. He is also very hopeful for the current generation of Sailors, in whom Deflice said he has tremendous confidence.
"I want to keep working as a diver," said Deflice. "I still feel very energized, I loved getting up in the morning and helping people and working for something bigger. I look forward to that. I’m also very positive about tomorrow’s Navy. I leave my duties in very capable hands. You younger Sailors are smarter than we were. You are diligent and hardworking and caring. I will miss being active duty, but I don’t leave worried. It’s in capable hands and I’m proud to turn it over to you."