Meeks earns diver certification to enhance search, rescue abilities

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

Zachary Meeks, captain with the Bullock Community Volunteer Fire Department, recently completed the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI®) Open Water Diver certification course through Vernon, Florida-based S.E.A. Divers. Meeks embarked on the new journey with the goal of enhancing his capacity for aiding his community and the surrounding areas.

Meeks’ familial ties to emergency services and volunteerism run deep. His father is the assistant chief of the Heath Volunteer Fire Department and his stepfather worked as a firefighter in Andalusia before becoming a paramedic. His grandfather was the chief of Loango Volunteer Fire Department where Meeks started out as a junior volunteer firefighter when he was 15 years old. Now 32, Meeks has been a volunteer firefighter for over 17 years.

“I just want to be able to help anybody in the county that needs a diver,” Meeks said. “My phone number will always be available to anyone. Whether I get to help people through the fire department or assist local public safety officials or if I do it on my own, I want to be able to provide volunteer dive services to anyone that needs them, free of charge of course.”

Ashton Davis, owner of S.E.A. Divers, explained the PADI® Open Water Diver certification is the foundational step for individuals aspiring to engage in underwater rescue missions.

“Open Water Diver is the bare minimum entry level certification,” Davis said. “The course does not include any public safety diving training whatsoever. However, it’s a necessary steppingstone and the first rung on the ladder as far as Zachary becoming a public safety, search and recovery type diver.”

Dive equipment needed for search and rescue operations can be very costly, but Meeks isn’t letting that deter him.

“I went on a diving trip when I was 16,” Meeks said. “I only got to go down 25 feet, but I was hooked and have wanted to really get into diving ever since. So, I am doing this for me too.”

Joining Meeks during the April 8 certification was his brother J.W. Wallace, a lieutenant for Gantt Rescue and a volunteer with the Heath Volunteer Fire Department, along with Gant Rescue member and River Falls police officer Marcus Laster. The men are playing it by ear, but hope to get a dive team together that will serve Crenshaw County, Covington County and surrounding areas.

Next on Meek’s to-do list is becoming a certified Advanced Open Water Diver, which will broaden his diving capabilities, getting him closer to what he is looking forward to the most, public safety diver training.

Harrison Weed, Chief of the Bullock Community Volunteer Fire Department, commended Meeks for his unwavering dedication to community service and expressed optimism about the positive impact of Meeks’ newfound skills.

“We would like to congratulate Training Capt. Zachary Meeks on his completion of the PADI Open Water Diver certification course,” Weed said. “We can’t wait to see where this will lead him in his selfless service to the Bullock Community and to all of Crenshaw County.”

Weed extends an invitation to those interested in joining volunteer fire departments in the county, emphasizing the critical need for additional volunteers.

Reflecting on the scarcity of volunteers in emergency services, Meeks emphasized the critical role they play in community safety and encouraged individuals to consider joining volunteer fire departments. With recent additions to the Bullock Volunteer Fire Department, Meeks expressed gratitude while acknowledging the ongoing need for more volunteers.

“I’ve been around volunteering all my life, but more than that, volunteers are a dying breed,” Meeks said. “Like the motto says, if you don’t volunteer, who’s going to answer the call? There have been times that only one or two showed up in response to Bullock being called out because volunteers can’t always just drop what they are doing. So, if we had more volunteers it would sure help.”

Those who are interested in joining one of the Volunteer Fire Departments in the county can reach out to any VFD member or call Scott Strickland with the Crenshaw County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments at 334-335-4831.

S.E.A. Divers offers a range of courses catering to various skill levels and interests. For more info visit