Joe Kilgore Dive Spotlight: A Lifetime of Dedication to NAUI, Diving, and Service.

As we delve again into our dive spotlight series, it is only fitting that we embark on a journey to discover and pay tribute to the latest inductees into the prestigious NAUI Hall of Honor which took place at DEMA 2023 in New Orleans. This month, we begin these special tributes with the remarkable Joe Kilgore, and stay tuned for the upcoming dive spotlight featuring the other distinguished inductee, Ed Uditis.


In the world of diving, there are individuals whose contributions are not just noteworthy; they are monumental. Joe E. Kilgore, PhD, is one such luminary. For over four decades, Joe has been a relentless force of support and innovation within the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) and the broader diving industry. His remarkable journey is a testament to his unwavering dedication to both underwater exploration and the well-being of organizations that share his passion.


From Lifeguard to Dive Master

Joe’s journey into the underwater world began in 1968 when he was certified as a lifeguard and scuba diver by the YMCA, marking the genesis of his lifelong affinity for the ocean. He swiftly climbed the ranks, earning his Dive Master certification in 1972 and becoming an instructor in 1975. This early dedication laid the foundation for a remarkable career that would span the realms of military service, education, and leadership in the diving community.



A Distinguished Military Career

Joe Kilgore’s military background is nothing short of illustrious. As a retired US Army Special Forces Colonel, he spent 26 years as an active military diver. His accolades include the prestigious US Army Scuba Badge, Combat Diver Badge, and Dive Officer Badge. Joe’s commitment extended to groundbreaking work at the US Navy Experimental Dive Unit, where he played a pivotal role in developing dive tables for the Dragger 02 system and Heliox tables for the Mark 15/16 closed-circuit rebreathers. Joe served in leadership roles throughout his career and was the Commander of a Special Forces Combat Diver Detachment, Diving officer for 7th Special Forces Group, US Army Western Command, 1st Special Forces Group and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.



A Lifetime Affiliation with NAUI

In 1986, Joe’s journey intersected with NAUI when he completed the NAUI Instructor Course, earning NAUI member #8740 and becoming a NAUI Lifetime Member. His dedication to the organization did not stop there. Joe served as Director of Training at Down Under Divers in Hawaii and continued to teach and promote diving when stationed at various locations throughout his career in the military, including Rhode Island, Washington, and Florida. His enduring affiliation with NAUI led to the establishment of Southshore Outdoor Adventures, a NAUI affiliate, which he currently owns.



A True Champion for NAUI

Joe’s contributions to NAUI go beyond the water’s edge. In 1986, he assumed the role of Dean at the NAUI Business Institute, devoting countless volunteer hours to teaching, coaching, and assisting NAUI facilities with business and marketing plans. Joe was crucial in the development of the NAUI Business Institute program and was integral in the execution of the first two iterations. Joe serves on the NAUI Board of Directors Marketing Committee and served on the Chairman’s Advisory Committee in 2018. He has been involved in updating training materials for NAUI, such as Altitude Diving. His commitment to NAUI culminated in his appointment to the NAUI Service Group Board of Directors in 2020, where he serves as Chairman and receiving  the NAUI Outstanding Service Award in 2019 and then induction into the NAUI Hall of Honor in 2023.



Leadership in Challenging Times

What distinguishes Joe Kilgore even further is his remarkable leadership during challenging times. In the wake of the unexpected passing of NAUI’s Executive Director, Rick Lorimore, Joe stepped up without hesitation. For over six months, he volunteered his time and extensive business knowledge, serving as the interim CEO at NAUI Headquarters. Joe’s dedication saw him spending most of his waking hours working pro bono to ensure the association ran smoothly and profitably during a difficult time for the association.



A Bright Future Ahead

As Joe Kilgore stepped down from the role of Interim Chief Executive Officer of NAUI Services Group, his leadership impact promised a bright future for the organization. His ongoing commitment to NAUI’s mission, coupled with his expertise, ensures that the legacy of this remarkable individual will continue to shape the world of diving and NAUI members worldwide.


In the world of diving, Joe Kilgore is not merely a name; he is a legend, a leader, and an inspiration. His unwavering dedication to NAUI and his profound impact on the diving industry have left an indelible mark that will resonate for generations to come.