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Divers from NAVFAC EXWC Train in Greenland

June 4, 2021 | By Sarah MacMillan Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center
Three divers from Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC) joined teams from Construction Diving Detachment Alfa from Underwater Construction Team ONE, Naval Construction Group TWO, the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center, Naval Surface Warfare Center, and the Naval Experimental Diving Unit for a two-week port damage assessment exercise.

Planned and led by Construction Diving Detachment Alfa, and supported by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ONE, the Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2021 simulated a task-tailored mission to support an arctic port damage assessment with limited repairs.

NAVFAC EXWC participated in three phases of the exercise. In each phase, NAVFAC EXWC identified which, if any portions of the Naval Construction Force’s table of allowance (an equipment allowance document that prescribes basic allowances of organizational equipment, and provides the control to develop, revise or change equipment authorization inventory data) was inadequate for operations within the Arctic environment.

“The ICEX 2021 exercise was a difficult but fruitful exercise conducted with a multiagency team representing the entire Naval Expeditionary Combat Command diving force,” said Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer James McVicar, NAVFAC EXWC Master Diver. “The team of divers from NAVFAC EXWC were charged with conducting and evaluation of the table of allowance equipment used during the exercise. We—the Navy—have neglected arctic equipment development for decades.”

McVicar added in the intervening years, the Navy has updated thousands of pieces equipment within the table of allowance without a full evaluation of the equipment in both arctic and polar conditions.

Phase one of the exercise consisted of manufacturer-provided project documentation for the projected operating environment. During this part of the assessment, assemblies and systems were either verified to be within our outside the manufacturers recommended operating parameters. These parameters are environmental variables, such as proper application, operation, and ambient temperature restrictions.

During phase two of the exercise, NAVFAC EXWC divers directly observed employment and operation of all systems and assemblies to verify whether operating cycles were functioning properly—this included extremely limited equipment malfunctions.

In order to identify any shortcomings of systems and assemblies during phase two, each system underwent vigorous testing through each phase and cycle of operation. This included all initial procedures, beginning procedures, operation of each system and their functional capabilities, regularly scheduled maintenance procedures, post-operation maintenance procedures, and storage in several different environments.

In the third phase of the exercise, NAVFAC EXWC gathered feedback from exercise participants from every unit involved in the operation and employment of each tested system. The feedback was collected through electronic questionnaires that were tailored to each test system in order to gather the most relevant and useful information to further identify equipment discrepancies outside typical operational capabilities

“Our divers from NAVFAC EXWC found multiple pieces of equipment that failed to function in real-world application in temperatures -50 degrees Fahrenheit. We [NAVFAC EXWC divers] are working hard to identify other pieces of equipment that need evaluation. Our intention is to participate in ICEX 2022 and all other exercises for the foreseeable future to ensure the equipment our warfighters use is ready when and where they need it,” said McVicar.

About Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC):

NAVFAC EXWC is a command of more than 1,300 dedicated federal employees, contractors, and military personnel who provide science, research, development, test, and evaluation, specialized engineering, and mobile logistics capabilities to deliver sustainable facility and pragmatic expeditionary solutions to the warfighter.