When a Navy Diver earns the Master Diver (MDV) qualification, they have reached the pinnacle of military diving. Navy Master Divers are responsible for all facets of military diving, to include; training divers, developing doctrine, procedures and tactics, and ensuring the safe execution of diving operations across the full spectrum of military diving. We operate with US Navy Divers, SEALs, EOD, Marine Corps Special Operations, submarine divers, and assist the Coast Guard and Air Force. The MDV is built from the ground up, starting as a junior diver until they have the knowledge, experience, rank, and leadership acumen to earn the coveted MDV ‘Fat-Pin’. We care deeply about the missions we oversee, and care even more about the brave men and women that we put in the water.
Proven leaders with vast experience leading high-risk military diving operations, building and training teams, and flat-out getting it done.
Jon is a retired U.S. Navy Master Diver with over 28 years of diving and salvage experience. After starting as an enlisted diver in 1992, Jon rose through the ranks as a diver and as a sailor to become a Master Chief (E9), Master Diver. He has served all over the globe and in diving specialties such as salvage, submarine-rescue, special warfare dive training, underwater-ship repair, as a Command Master Chief, human resources lead for all Navy Divers, and in various staff positions. Upon retiring from the Navy, Jon's desire to serve never went away. He took his passion for diving and training and co-founded the premier diving and maritime consulting company where he evaluates, trains, and refines diving teams around the country. He couples his passion for diving with his desire to serve our nation's brave heroes through charitable work with veterans and first responders. See our "Insights" page for more on the impact that Copper Collar Group has in our communities.
Jess is a decorated Navy veteran of over two decades. A fierce and proud Yeoman, she led Sailors through many deployments and in faraway places in support of a host of Naval missions. Her experience spans Naval Aviation, several ships, Naval Special Warfare, Naval Expeditionary commands, and work for the Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel. Her administrative and business acumen are second to none and we are thankful that she is here to keep this group of old divers straight (no easy feat)! If we can't find Jess, it's because she is out pounding the pavement instead of us. Her running prowess is legendary and she routinely runs circles around those half her age. She is an avid ultra-runner, and gym-rat whose boundless energy and positive attitude is infectious. As if being the President of a company and an ultra-runner wasn't enough, Jess is also a mother of 3 beautiful children (4 if you include Jon).
(USN Capt. Ret) Principal Consultant
Mark Helmkamp is a retired Navy Captain with over 39 years of open-ocean towing, diving and salvage, ship maintenance, ship management and associated budget planning and execution experience. Mark has been involved in every aspect of diving and has led organizations that include the Office of the Supervisor of Salvage and Diving where he was the chair of the Navy Diving and Salvage Executive steering Committee, an organization that calculates and implements salvage system requirements for the U.S. Navy. As the former Salvage Ship Class manager at Military Sealift Command, he successfully led the effort to combine the Rescue Salvage Vessel (Safeguard Class ARS) and Fleet Ocean Tug (Powhatan Class ATF) recapitalization programs into one program which is now known as the Navajo Class ATS. Mark also served as the Commanding Officer of the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center Panama City and the USS RECLAIMER. It’s an honor to have him (and his epic Mustache) on our team!
Mike Winter is a retired U.S. Navy Master Diver with over 30 years of diving and salvage experience. Starting as an enlisted Submariner in 1979, Mike graduated from SCUBA school in March of 1980. From that point on, the die was cast. Mike left the Submarine force and pursued his passion for diving and his passion for the men and women who chose the path less traveled. Mike advanced through the ranks and retired as a Master Chief (E9), Master Diver. His leadership world-wide has spanned diving specialties such as salvage, submarine rescue, Government and NGO diver training, underwater ship/submarine repair, as the diving community's first Enlisted Community Manager (HR Lead). He led the establishment of the first new ratings in the Navy in over 50 years when he stood up the Navy Diver rating in October 2006 while working at the Navy Personnel Command in Millington, TN. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Special Boat Operator (SB), and Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) ratings. Mike refuses to retire and repeatedly claims that he would stab 10 men in the heart with a number 2 lead pencil to continue serving in the Navy. His passion for diving, training, maintenance and to those that are involved in it make him the perfect choice as Principal Consultant at Copper Collar Group and to those we serve.
Rodney “Iron Lung” Atherton was born and raised in the heart of the Pennsylvania farmlands. He enlisted in May of 1988 and left the farm to chase adventure as a Navy Deep Sea Diver! Rod has literally served all over the globe during his 33 career. From Diego Garcia, the Philippines, Italy, and Guam to scores of assignments across the U.S. He’s been there and done that. Thankfully, Rod earned the coveted MDV “fat-pin” back in 2004 and spent the next 17 years as a Master Diver where he had the honor and privilege of not only supervising incredible missions around the world, but more importantly, training and mentoring scores of young divers. At the request of the Navy Diver Community Manager (Jon Klukas), Rod graciously agreed to take the reigns at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center where he spent his last 4 years in the navy training and qualifying Navy Master Divers. His passion for diving and training are infectious and drove us to twist his pinky to join our team! We’re glad he did (you will be too)!
Erin Telitz was born and raised in Colorado where he developed a passion for diving in the local lakes at the age of 12. Erin followed that passion and fulfilled lifelong dream of becoming a Deep-sea Diver by enlisting in the Navy in February of 1993. He quickly moved through the ranks until he earned the title of U.S. Navy Master Diver in 2009. During his three decades as a Navy Diver, Erin has been involved in every aspect of diving; conducting underwater salvage operations, underwater ship’s husbandry work, specialized diving with Explosive Ordnance Disposal, and Research Development and Testing (RDT&E) assignments. Erin’s specialty has resided with Naval Special Warfare (NSW) where he is recognized as the foremost technical expert on diving program policy, tactics, technique, procedures, and the acquisition management of new equipment to keep NSW operators at the tip of the spear and lethal in the fight against Great Power Competition. As former NSW diving instructor, his passion for diving is unmatched and safety and efficiency are his top priorities. His appetite for “all things” diving meant finding more of what he loved… This led Erin to Copper Collar where he leverages his love of diving and his decades of experience in order to improve your organization.
Dave Gove took his calling to serve and enlisted in the Navy where he spent over 30 years being Deep Sea. From complex jobs repairing billion-dollar warships underwater to conducting salvage and personnel recovery, Dave has done it. He led diving operations at SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE where he would deploy to collect intelligence and assisted in black-ops to put warheads on foreheads. He followed that with tours as the head Human Relations for all 1300 Navy Divers followed by time with Naval Special Warfare (NSW), becoming the lead Master Diver for all Special Operations Forces (SOF) diving. He helped develop various diving techniques/procedures and was involved in the test and evaluation of special warfare diving equipment. His follow-on tour at Basic Underwater Demolition Training (BUD/S) put him in charge of student and staff training and safety for diving. His last years in the Navy were spent as Navy’s Copper Collar MDV – the most senior active-duty Master Diver. Dave’s passion for diving history led him to write the famed “This Day In Diving History” series which is wildly popular amongst professional divers. Dave earned his Master’s Degree in Leadership and couples that with unmatched technical knowledge and significant experience, all of which make him an exceptional addition to the CCG Team.