WARREN, Mich. (July 17, 2014) -- Imagine spending your days diving below the surface, donned in full scuba gear, and ready to patch damaged watercraft hulls, salvage sunken equipment or patrol the waters. Not your average day at the office.
But for Army divers, it's all in a day's work.
Divers have supported Soldiers for decades
The inception of Army divers began in World War II, when the military recognized a need for individuals who could repair damaged harbors so troops could dock and unload supplies.
To address this demand, diving training started at the U.S. Navy Pier 88, on the North River in New York City, soon after.
From then on, the training and responsibilities have continued to develop.
Now, Army divers train at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. Training includes diver and dive officer training, first class dive school and master diver evaluations.
Once training is complete, divers are ready to take on their duties.
"We basically do everything underwater that the Army needs besides sneaking up on the beach and follow-up missions," said TACOM Master Diver and Material Developer Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Niese.
Divers' roles include a variety of responsibilities.
"As divers, duties include, but are not limited to, port harbor clearance, port rehabilitation, hydro-surveying, search missions, inspections, underwater cutting and welding, work for port engineers, work for government agencies to find something and bring it back to the surface, rebuilding and demolitions," said Niese.
Since the beginning of the Army diver career field, the small number or professionals taking on the important mission has kept the community tight-knit.
"The diving field is currently about 130 to 150 people," said Niese. "I think I've met almost everybody in my field."
TACOM LCMC plays integral role with Army divers
Among its other roles, TACOM Life Cycle Management Command serves as a subject matter expert on all diving-related issues, since diving equipment falls under the category of a set or a kit, standard categories TACOM LCMC fulfills duties for.
Linda Hefferan, assistant product manager for diving, boats and motors with TACOM partner Program Executive Office Combat Support & Combat Service Support, takes the lead on fulfilling the divers' equipment needs.
"In this office, the equipment users describe to us what they want to acquire. We make a contract, buy the equipment and field it. The TACOM side of the house supports it after it has been fielded, for the next 20 years. They buy the spare parts and keep the equipment running," said Hefferan.
This process wouldn't work without the help of Niese, who collaborates with Hefferan to determine the needs of the field.
"He is a liaison to the field. He tells me what is going on in the field, [and works] to keep the communication going," said Hefferan. "He is not responsible for telling me requirements, just what is going on. We convey the specific requirement needs to the 'big' Army, and they take care of it."
Niese's position is a unique experience, since he serves as a middleman and vital communicator between the field and TACOM LCMC.
"My position is the Army Master Diver liason to PM SKOT (Program Manager, Sets, Kits, Outfits and Tools) to advise her on new equipment the field is requiring," says Niese. "I provide a way for the field to contact PM SKOT with equipment issues. I talk to Linda on a daily basis, or whenever an issue arises."
In general, the types of equipment Hefferan and Niese noted TACOM helps divers with are air compressors to charge scuba filters or air banks for underwater construction; inspection equipment; underwater support packages with cameras; and salvage sets to help divers obtain sunken items.
Tool packages TACOM LCMC supplies consist of all the tools needed for a mission, which can range from heavy hydrologic work underwater to cutting and welding.
TACOM LCMC operates a boats and motors program to supply rafts to engineer divers, as well as providing other engineers and special forces with inflatable boats to get them where they will be diving or doing search operations.
Scuba is one of most common types of diving, which means scuba equipment, such as what a civilian would use to see coral reefs, fish or wrecks, as well as commercial diving, remains a high priority.
"If you can't send a diver in, then you use a remote-operated vehicle to complete inspections or complement assessments," said Niese. "TACOM supplies these [remote-operated vehicles]."
Thus, the variety of equipment necessary for the numerous potential missions results in a reliance on TACOM LCMC for the divers.
"We support all of the Army divers," said Niese, "And we supply them with everything they need to do a mission."
Hefferan and Niese recognize their influential roles, but for them it's all in a day's work; for them above water, supporting the Soldiers or below.