U.S. Navy and Philippine Seabee Divers Train Together at Balikatan 2014

By CEC (SCW/MDV) Terence Juergens

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Seabee divers from the U.S. and Philippine Navy UCTs prepare to execute a joint dive during Exercise Balikatan, Sangley Pt., Philippines, May 8, to practice underwater cutting and welding. Photos by EO1 (SCW/DV) Manuel Terrero

“Green Diver, back down the ladder until your helmet’s awash,” “Make it hot” and “Switch off” were some common phrases one could hear echo from the combined U.S. and Philippine Navy dive side. During the month of May, both nations partnered in support of subject matter expert exchanges involving port/harbor recovery scenarios during this year’s Exercise Balikatan in the Philippines.

Throughout nine grueling days of high heat and periodic downpours, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 trained eight Philippine Navy (PN) UCT divers on topics including surface supplied diving systems and procedures, underwater cutting and welding techniques and procedures, diving casualty management and neurological examinations. From the makeshift classroom to underwater employment all, PN divers received top-notch training that goes hand in hand with the strategic goals of Balikatan 2014.

“The Filipino divers are outstanding, resourceful and very attentive,” said Builder 2nd Class (SCW/DV) Joseph Hophan, project supervisor for UCT 2’s Construction Diving Detachment Charlie (CDD/C). “We had to take a crawl-walk-run approach to our mission here in the Philippines. Diving is already very dangerous; when you add cutting and welding to the equation your focus shifts toward safety and the steps we take to mitigate risk. They did great and learned at an impressive rate.”

Each PN diver was given a project to practice various types of welds.  Once they felt comfortable with what they learned during topside (dry) welding they were put to the test underwater. From proper terminology, electrode placement and speed they were able to experience how hard it is to weld underwater.

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Seabee divers from the U.S. and Philippine Navy UCTs prepare to execute a joint dive during Exercise Balikatan, Sangley Pt., Philippines, May 8, to practice underwater cutting and welding. 

“I don’t think they realized how hard it was going to be,” said Construction Mechanic 2nd Class (SCW/EXW/DV) Nathan Emmett, lead welder, UCT 2’s CDD/C. “Once you call for power it was lights out, the visibility goes to zero. I was surprised at how fast they learned.”

Along with cutting and welding underwater for the first time, the PN UCT divers were able to gain valuable knowledge on side scan sonar techniques and procedures.

“We were able to use their system and train them on what they have,” said Builder 2nd Class (SCW/DV) David Madmon, hydrographic survey technician, UCT’s CDD/C.  “I think it resonates more when you’re able to train them on a piece of equipment they already own; when we leave they can continue to practice what we taught them.”

From deployment to recovery PN UCT and UCT 2 divers surveyed more than 5km of ocean floor.

The closing ceremonies were filled with sea stories and the sharing of local cuisine. With another Balikatan in the record books UCT 2 continues to solidify the already concrete bond between our good friends and deep-sea brothers of the PN UCT – HOOYAH SEABEES, HOOYAH DEEPSEA!

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SW1 (SCW/DV) Cody Oswald, UCT 2, teaches a surface supplied diving course to the Philippine UCT during Exercise Balikatan, Sangley Pt., Philippines, May 8.

UCT 2’s CDD/C participated in Exercise Balikatan in the Philippines on their fourth of seven stops spanning six countries across the Pacific. UCT 2 will conduct inspection, maintenance and repair of various underwater and waterfront facilities, along with participation in four PACFLT exercises, during their six-month PACOM deployment.

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