The U.S. Army is widely recognized for its land dominance; for
selective teams of Soldiers, however, the terrain they dominate is
the vastly mysterious and volatile world under the sea.
Army engineer divers with the 511th Engineer Dive Detachment, 30th
Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, plunged into the swift
currents of the Arabian Gulf for a two-week diving exercise that
concluded Nov. 19, 2016.
November 18, 2016 - U.S. Army engineer divers with the 511th
Engineer Dive Detachment from Fort Eustis, VA jump off the MG
Charles P. Gross (Logistics Support Vessel-5) and into the Arabian
Gulf, off the coast of Kuwait Naval Base, to practice diving
procedures. The unit executed various diving techniques and
certified diving supervisors in emergency protocol throughout the
exercise, Operation Deep Blue, enhancing the team's overall
readiness and ability to support U.S. Army Central missions. (U.S.
Army photo by Sgt. Angela Lorden)
The unit from Fort Eustis, Virginia, executed various
diving techniques and certified diving supervisors in
emergency protocol throughout the exercise, Operation Deep
Blue, enhancing the team's overall readiness and ability to
support U.S. Army Central missions.
“Although we are
a small detachment, our impacts are profound on the
strategic level,” said 1st Lt. Grant Rice, the executive
officer of the unit and native of Dover, Massachusetts.
“This training demonstrates the validity of our capability.”
Rice was responsible for the logistical and safety
planning of Deep Blue.
“Diving is considered by the
military to be a high-risk activity,” he said. “By
conducting training events like this, we actually reduce
risk by becoming proficient.”
The team mitigated risk
for future operations by reacting to simulated, emergency
scenarios throughout the exercise. The scenarios included
unconscious divers, underwater injuries and decompression
sickness, commonly known as the bends. Soldiers had to
assess and react to each situation accordingly.
“Nobody wants to lose a brother or a sister, especially not
with something that could have been avoided,” said 1st Sgt.
Tyler Dodd, the master diver of the team. “My philosophy is
if my Soldiers have seen the scenarios play out, they're
going to be more prepared to handle it in real time.”
Master diver is the highest level of diving proficiency
an enlisted Soldier can attain. As a master diver, Dodd is
able to certify divers within his unit to conduct various
diving operations without his supervision. Operation Deep
Blue's mission included the certification of his diving
“For me to be able to rely on my
[Soldiers] to take out missions when I'm not there is a
force multiplier,” Dodd said.
The exercise also
included operating the team's recompression chamber. The
chamber, worth approximately $1 million dollars, simulates
various ocean depths with air. As the theater's
diving-emergency response team, the 511th Engineer Dive
Detachment uses the chamber to treat military personnel and
civilians suffering from decompression illnesses.
of Rice's Soldiers treated a Kuwaiti diver during his last
deployment here with a recompression chamber.
his training from exercises like Operation Deep Blue, he was
able to respond to the incident, treat the Kuwaiti diver and
prevent a potentially fatal injury,” Rice said.
While USARCENT dive teams train and conduct missions near
Kuwait Naval Base several times a year, divers can be tasked
out anywhere in the area of operations. Soldiers from the
dive team frequently support missions in countries like
Jordan, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Some
missions require dive units to travel country to country as
force-protection assets for vessels transporting military
Large shipments of military cargo can be
considered high-profile targets for terrorists, Rice said.
Divers assure the mobility of the vessels as they travel to
different countries in several ways, such as searching for
underwater explosives and other obstructions that may
prevent cargo delivery.
Divers honed their force
protection skills by practicing various underwater tasks.
The training included cutting wood with a chainsaw, slicing
other material with an underwater torch and lifting and
moving various objects from the bottom of the sea.
“It's an exhausting job,” said Sgt. Christian Webber, an
engineer diver with the unit.
As the divers
performed their tasks underwater, the Soldiers on the vessel
maintained the diver's life-support equipment. Trust between
Soldiers is as vital as the diving-umbilical cables that
supply the oxygen to the divers below.
“We have to
rely on each other,” Webber said. “We go through a lot
While the dive team relies on each other,
USARCENT relies on the unique capabilities of U.S. Army
divers to accomplish necessary missions.
need to be able to operate in the most austere environments
in the world,” Dodd said. “It's important to do training
By U.S. Army Sgt. Angela Lorden
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