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Xavier Magazine | August 20, 2018

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Going to New Depths

By France Griggs Sloat

He was supposed to spend his life looking at teeth, but Paul Naber realized in college that he wasn’t interested in following in his father’s footsteps. Dentistry just didn’t cut it for him. Quite by accident, he discovered that law enforcement does. Now he focuses on taking a bite out of crime.

Naber, who earned a bachelor of liberal arts degree in 1991, is a patrol officer for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, but he’s spending more and more of his time in hot water. Or cold water. Or, most likely, muddy water. Naber was recently accepted to the sheriff’s Underwater Search and Rescue Unit, which searches for weapons or submerged cars or bodies in the murky waters of the area’s rivers and lakes.

Naber attended the University on a swimming scholarship and is a certified scuba diver, and he just couldn’t get his love of the water out of his blood. The water he dives into now, though, is often so mucky it’s like swimming in liquefied dirt, he says. The place he trains, for instance, is so muddy that a flashlight shining directly into his eyes is not visible. He knows. He tried it once.

Naber says his most difficult dive was his first training dive at a quarry last winter. He and his diving buddy donned their 100-pound diving suits and jumped in together. But his buddy panicked when he began sinking and was unable to adjust the valve that controls the air in his vest.

Naber adjusted the air for him to slow his descent. They spent about two minutes on the bottom, bumping blindly into rocks and tree stumps in frigid water, breathing air pumped in from the surface through a helmet that doubles as a face mask and radio communicator.

“It could have been a bad training accident, but it wasn’t,” Naber says. “At the surface I said, ‘Did you panic?’ And he said, ‘Dude, you saved my life.’ ”

Naber says he knows he’ll find a body on one of his dives, and he’s prepared for that gruesome reality. But he feels he’s doing work that helps others. And that’s something he can sink his teeth into.

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