Army divers splash headfirst into training
March 7, 2013
SHUAIBA PORT, Kuwait (March 7, 2013) -- "The first time I put on a KM-37 diving helmet was pretty exciting," said Spc. Gregory James Lavassaur, a second-class diver assigned to the 74th Engineer Dive Detachment. "The communications are great and I got a rush knowing that I could be a hundred feet down and still talk to my team up top."
Only 150 Soldiers make up the exclusive tight-knit community of U.S. Army deep-sea divers. They share many first-time memories, some even as far back as dive school.
Lavassaur and eight other divers, deployed from the 74th Engineer Dive Detachment, or 74th EDD, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., performed underwater welding, cutting and hydraulic-tool training.
They spent grueling intervals each day ranging from an hour to almost three in the murky depths of the Arabian Gulf at 25 feet below the surface. The high-risk training, which lasted from Feb. 19 to March 7, at the Sea Point of Debarkation/Embarkation here, provided an opportunity for rookie divers to become more versatile and increase their skillsets.
"Every time we do sustainment training everyone puts forth his best effort and that's why there's a checklist established in the dive field," explained Staff Sgt. Eric Bailey, a command qualified dive supervisor with the 74th EDD. "Our divers are getting better, stronger and more able to accomplish necessary tasks."
Their initial goal is progressing from second-class diver to salvage diver. If they stick around long enough, they return to dive school for advanced training, which qualifies them as a first-class diver.
With enough hard work, they may one day join the elite ranks of master diver.
This intensive training exercise included six of the more difficult and time-consuming of the 37 required salvage diver tasks.
One of the most dangerous parts of the exercise was the underwater portion using a cutting torch, which reached temperatures of more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit and blasted through any metal the divers encountered.
"It's really awesome because you can feel the power of the torch and it's a very violent, exciting process where you're basically disintegrating the metal away," said dive supervisor Staff Sgt. Logan M. Forbing. "It's a rush. Everybody loves doing it."
Whether it be the powerful tools that could accidentally cripple their air supply line, or the unpredictability of the ocean's force, Army divers enjoy the extreme gear they use yet have a constant awareness of the hazard lurking beneath the water's surface.
"Our job is inherently dangerous and then you incorporate electricity with the extremely high temperatures involved and you've just made things a whole lot more complicated," emphasized dive supervisor Bailey.
Through this type of peril, bonds of unsinkable trust are formed within the world of Army divers.
Junior Soldiers are given the necessary confidence to overcome the first big hurdles as they navigate the waters in hopes of furthering their diving careers.