Foal Eagle 2014: UCT 2, ROK Divers Make History

By CEC (SCW/MDV) Terence Juergens, UCT 2

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Divers from UCT 2 and the Republic of Korea Navy conduct a joint underwater concrete placement during Exercise Foal Eagle, April 14. UCT 2 participated in this exercise during its third of seven stops spanning six countries. Team members will conduct inspection, maintenance and repair of various underwater and waterfront facilities, along with participation in 4 PACFLT exercises, during their six-month PACOM deployment. Photos by EO1 (SCW/DV) Manuel Terrero

Fresh from the warm deep waters of Guam, Seabee divers from Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 arrived in Chinhae, South Korea, to participate in Exercise Foal Eagle 2014 (FE14).

Over a period of seven days in April, UCT 2 and Republic of Korea (ROK) Sea Salvage and Rescue Unit (SSU) divers worked hand in hand to support harbor clearance/port recovery scenarios, with emphasis on the placement of underwater concrete. UCT’s unique ability as underwater Seabees with vast knowledge of waterfront structures helped facilitate the first underwater concrete placement in SSU history. From the classroom to the field, both nations worked long hours to complete construction of formwork and successfully place more than five cubic meters of concrete underwater.

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BU2 (SCW/DV) Joseph Hophan, UCT 2, describes how to place underwater formwork before conducting a joint underwater concrete placement with Republic of Korea Navy divers during Exercise Foal Eagle, April 13. 

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Divers from UCT 2 and the Republic of Korea Navy build formwork before conducting a joint underwater concrete placement during Exercise Foal Eagle, April 13.

“The SSU divers are experts in salvage – they dive the same rigs and use the same dive manual as we do. What we’re trying to do is provide them a taste of UCT capabilities,” said Construction Electrician 1st Class (SCW/DV) Daniel Luberto, leading petty officer, Construction Diving Detachment Charlie.  “The ROK SSU divers have very little underwater construction experience, but their motivation to learn and strong work ethic helped us overcome many challenges to complete a successful training evolution.”

Along with the construction of training forms to practice different techniques of underwater concrete placement, UCT 2 developed a comprehensive training plan to further understanding of how concrete can be used to repair damaged pier sections. Both teams worked together to use wooden and steel formwork to encase a steel pier pile in concrete to enhance structural integrity. Using a surface supplied diving system and underwater hydraulic tools, divers prepped the steel pile by cleaning loose scale, rust and marine growth. Once the pile was clean the divers took precise measurements to fabricate the necessary forms.

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A Seabee diver from UCT 2 guides a concrete pump during a joint underwater concrete placement with Republic of Korea Navy divers, Exercise Foal Eagle, South Korea, April 14. 

“The biggest barrier with training was language,” said Builder 2nd Class (SCW/DV) Joseph Hophan, project supervisor.  “But once we got in the water and started working everything fell into place and worked out great. We were able to complete so much in such a short time, and I couldn’t be more happy [with] how things unfolded.”

Once all formwork was complete and lowered in the water, UCT divers used two topside forms to demonstrate the proper procedures of how to place underwater concrete.

“There’s a big difference with placing concrete on surface versus underwater,” said BU2 Hophan.  “The ability to rehearse and show them topside was invaluable and definitely set us up doing the same thing underwater.”

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Seabee Divers from Underwater Construction Team (UCT) Two and Republic of Korea Navy Divers place formwork as they prepare to conduct a joint underwater concrete placement during Exercise Foal Eagle, April 14. 

While working in cold water with poor visibility, safety was a main concern. UCT divers instructed the SSU divers on the proper use of personal protective equipment while constructing forms. They also used a large amount of Operational Risk Management to safely complete what otherwise could have been a dangerous evolution.

“At the end of the day, the ROK SSU gained indispensible insight of what the UCTs do on daily basis,” said CE1 Luberto. “They realized the great importance of waterfront construction while using ingenuity and teamwork to get the job done.”

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A Seabee diver from UCT 2 guides a diver to shore following formwork placement in support of a joint underwater concrete placement with Republic of Korea Navy divers, Exercise Foal Eagle, South Korea, April 14. 

UCT 2 participated in Exercise Foal Eagle in South Korea on its third of seven stops spanning six countries during the Seabees’ deployment across the Pacific Fleet. Team members will conduct inspection, maintenance, and repair of various underwater and waterfront facilities, along with participating in four PACFLT exercises during their six-month PACOM deployment.


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