Ocean Conservancy recently embarked on a partnership with Force Blue to support a coral restoration mission in Puerto Rico. Nathan Quinn, a member of Force Blue Team One deployed to Puerto Rico to assist NOAA, Sea Ventures and Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources in October and has been there since. The Florida native and U.S. Army Veteran and Military Medic Instructor took some time to speak with us about his time in Puerto Rico. Read parts one, two and three of this four-part series.
Michael Farnham: Your Force Blue teammates were recently in D.C. working with Ocean Conservancy’s Government Relations team to tell your story to lawmakers in the hopes of supporting further funding for NOAA. You were working in Puerto Rico while this happened, what message would you like to convey for those representatives and senators as to the importance of the work NOAA is doing and how it benefits organizations like Force Blue?
Nathan Quinn: If I could say one thing to the legislators on Capitol Hill, it would be “Please do not disregard the amount of good partnerships like the one between NOAA, Force Blue and the Ocean Conservancy are doing in giving our marine resources—and our veterans—a second chance.” Organizations like Force Blue can do so much to support the mission of agencies like NOAA. In order for that potential to be maximized, we know that fully funding NOAA so that they can keep leading these efforts is critical to our future. If the powers-that-be would take a moment to consider that—and to recognize what a win/win this is for all involved, I think we’d find bipartisan support across the board and that was our message in Washington.
Farnham: Force Blue is a young organization and this Puerto Rico project demonstrated the capabilities on a major scale—what do you envision Force Blue looking like in the next few years?
Quinn: It was a big deal when little start-ups began to disrupt huge industry and make changes to long time consumer problems by pointing out how inefficient certain businesses were. It seems reasonable, therefore, that the same can be done in the nonprofit world. With this deployment in particular there was an idea that was introduced and tested by science then proven by small groups like Sea Ventures. Force Blue can add the man power and prove the scalability of these ideas by taking them and putting them to work in very short period of time—6,000 fragments of coral that would perish are now thriving on the reef in just a few months! Now proven, we can scale this using a larger group from Force Blue—like Team Two training in August—as well as other groups. Pretty soon we will start to see enormous changes not just in Puerto Rico but around the country and around the world.
The six members of Force Blue Team One are not going to replant all the coral. What we can do is bring attention to all of the amazing things that are being done to save the world’s oceans. Inspiring people isn’t just a good way to improve the world, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Our goal over the next few years is to add more veteran combat divers, beginning with the six new recruits we’ll be training this August, to create a bigger force capable of deploying anywhere in the word. More veterans doing more good in more places—that’s our formula for success.
Farnham: Anything else you’d like to add?
Quinn: All I would add is that, if you’re reading this, thank you. Taking the time to understand what it is we’re endeavoring to do is so very important to our mission. If you’re reading this and would like to play an even bigger part in that mission’s success, please visit www.forceblueteam.org and make a tax-deductible donation. Every dollar raised goes directly toward putting a veteran like me back in service—which is where we all belong.