UCT 2 Conducts Cold Weather Altitude Diving in California’s High Sierra

By Lt. Cmdr. Charles Kubic, UCT 2

UCT Two conducts cold weather and altitude surface supplied diving operations

BU2(SCW/DV) Matthew Dawson emerges from the cold water after an altitude dive during diving training operations,Bridgeport, Calif., April 2013.  Photos By BU2(SCW/DV) Josh Noel UCT 2

Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 recently completed a diver training exercise in California’s High Sierra, designed to increase the team’s cold-weather and altitude-diving expertise.

Members of Construction Dive Detachment (CDD) Bravo spent 10 days in Bridgeport training at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC), where they learned and exercised skills such as cold-weather survival, mountain medicine, cold-weather diving and altitude diving, including both SCUBA and surface-supplied diving operations.

UCT Two conducts cold weather and altitude scuba training

CEC (SCW/DV) Adam Winters, diving superviser  directs divers Lt. Cmdr. Charles Kubic, commanding officer, and BU2(SCW/DV) David Miller, while EAC (SCW/DV) Blair Mercado and CM2(SCW/DV) Trever Buckett support from a Zodiac at Twin Lakes Bridgeport, Calif., April 2013. 

Occupying 46,000 acres of Toiyabe National Forest with elevations ranging from 6,000 to 12,000 feet, the training center conducts unit and individual courses to prepare Marines and joint and allied forces for operations in mountainous, high-altitude and cold-weather environments. The center is also involved in the development of warfighting doctrine and specialized equipment for use in mountain and cold-weather operations.

During the winter season, from October to April, snow accumulation can reach 6 to 8 feet. The annual temperature at the center ranges from 20 degrees below zero in the winter to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

UCT Two cold weather and altitude surface supplied dive operations

SW2(SCW/DV) David Miller, IT3 Gabriela Puerta, BU2(SCW/DV) Andrew Quiroga, and SW1(SCW/DV) James Kirk assist BU2(SCW/DV) Matthew Dawson and BU2(SCW/DV) Christopher Farmer enter the water while CM2(SCW/DV) James Richardson, diving supervisor, observes.   

Before getting into the water, the detachment was required to undergo a pre-environmental training course designed to provide Sailors and Marines with the tools they need to survive in the strenuous mountain environment.

“The best part of exercise was not only utilizing UCT’s arctic dive gear but the pre-environmental training course of instruction provided by Marine Corps staff,” said Construction Mechanic 1st Class James Richardson. “They covered topics such as cold-weather and altitude medicine, first aid, mountain survival, mountain weather and equipment.”

The dive portion of the exercise focused on honing the detachment’s skills to establish and sustain a camp that supported diving operations in a mountain environment as well as the utilization of special dive gear designed to operate in intense cold environments.

UCT Two conducts Recompression Chamber Operations

Construction Diving Detachment BRAVO of UCT Two conducts training for the Transportable Recompression Chamber (TRCS) during altitude diving operations at Twin Lakes, Bridgeport, Calif., April 2013.

CDD Bravo used both dry diving suits and hot-water diving suits to keep divers warm in the water. The hot-water suit is used during surface-supplied diving operations and employs a hot water heater and 600 feet of hose to push hot water into the diver’s wet suit.

“It felt like diving in a Jacuzzi,” said Builder 2nd Class Andrew Quiroga.

Utilitiesman 2nd Class Richard Noel said he was most interested in the effects of altitude.

“Learning how altitude not only affects the equipment but also the diver was by far the best learning experience,” he said.

The mountain environment provided multiple opportunities for valuable training.  “Most of the divers in CDD/B have never dove at altitude. It was just a chapter we studied in the dive manual but never implemented in an applicable manner,” remarked Construction Mechanic 1st Class Trevor Buckett. “Now that we have gone, we are all very familiar with altitude protocol.”

The detachment also had the opportunity to evaluate the command’s equipment for use in austere cold-weather conditions.

“It gave us the opportunity to find our weakness and be that much more ready to execute in a wartime situation if called upon,” said the detachment’s officer in charge, Chief Construction Mechanic Adam Winters.

UCT 2 is now better equipped to complete tasking in austere environments, from extreme cold to extreme elevations.

CDD Bravo will deploy this summer to support operations around the Pacific.

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