By Sgt. Ricardo BranchJune 9, 2009
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii (Army News Service, June 11, 2009) -- The Soldiers of the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment are back on dry land, following 10 days of a dive recertification training exercise, May 11 through 22, in the coastal waters off the big island of Hawaii.
The 30 Soldiers had to dive in a multitude of underwater environments including wrecked ships and reefs, as well as the sea floor, to test much of their equipment and hone their skills.
"We put our dive supervisors to the test underwater in a variety of strenuous conditions," said Sgt. 1st Class Milton Prater, a platoon sergeant with 7th Dive Det. "The training allowed us to see how they would react and ensure they followed the proper protocols throughout the exercise."
During the training, dubbed Operation Deep Blue, the divers faced long days at sea checking and rechecking their equipment and doing upwards of 11 dives a day, ranging from 20 to 30 minutes per dive.
Milton said the training was very important because the 10-day exercise allowed the Soldiers to hone their diving skills.
"This training is great," he said. "We were doing what we we're trained to do. When we are at garrison, you can't practice diving, you need to be out there."
Many of the new divers even had the opportunity to go beyond the training they received in the Army Engineer Diver School.
"While the training focused more on the leadership, it was good for the new divers as well," Milton said. "They had the opportunity to practice their underwater skills, as well as go deeper than any of them have been before when they dived down to depths of 190 feet."
Sgt. Jake Cochran, one of the newest divers on the team, said he enjoyed the time at sea.
"It was good time out there. Our leadership helped a lot of us new guys out and kept us busy out there learning our jobs, he said, adding that this type of deep-sea training is beneficial for every diver on the team.
"We have a really risky job when you think about the factors that can happen in the water, so any training that makes us safe and better in our jobs is a good thing,Aca,!A? Cochran explained.
A few of the 7th Engineer Dive Det. Soldiers came into the career field from other jobs: Milton was an infantryman, and Cochran was a mechanic before they each decided to don their dive helmets and take a splash into their current field.
"I was deployed to Iraq as a mechanic and not enjoying my job," Cochran said. "I was up for re-enlistment over there and saw diver when I was thinking about a new field."
He said the appeal of the job is what attracted him initially, so he signed a new contract and loves what he's doing in the Army.
"It's a great job," Cochran said. "I'm getting to go in the water and doing things no one else does in the Army Aca,!" I love it."
(Sgt. Ricardo Branch serves with the 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs Office.)