When Robert “Utah” Marr prepares to go underwater, it often draws a crowd. Of course, that crowd will see very little of what the Commercial Diver and Field Service Supervisor for ATLAS-SSI does on a typical job.
“It’s funny to me, because everyone wants to come out. After about the first five minutes, once that man leaves the surface, there’s nothing to see. There’s absolutely nothing to see,” Marr said with a laugh.
It’s a shame, because what he does is pretty interesting. ATLAS-SSI uses divers to perform underwater screen installations, removals of old screens and other projects, many of which require welding and other technical work in total or near-total darkness.
The full-time team for ATLAS-SSI, one of the first in the industry to bring its divers in house rather than outsource them, also spends a fair amount of time above water, putting in time with the customer to understand their goals and what they’re looking for out of the project.
“These provide excellent service to the customer, they’ve got to manage their crews, they miss their wives, they work at Christmas. They do all these things,” said Ford Wall, Vice President of Sales for ATLAS-SSI. “That’s not easy to do and keep a smile on your face and service the customer, so it takes a special breed of guys. They have kind of a thankless job, and we, as managers, probably don’t pick up the phone and thank them enough.”
Marr estimates he spent 330 days on the road the last year, but rarely would he let a crowd or anything else block out his focuses – keeping everyone safe and making sure the job gets done right.
“It becomes automatic,” he said. “We become more focused and less concerned with other people and more concerned with what we’re doing, specifically. I spend a significant amount of time contemplating the ‘what ifs’ and making sure those ‘what ifs’ don’t happen, because I’m the guy on site who’s responsible for that guy’s life in the water.”