With the Pentagon’s increased focus on near-peer conventional conflict and heightened Russian, Chinese and other threats facing the U.S. in the Arctic domain, U.S. Navy divers prepare to take the fight to the frigid waters of the North Pole. And that fight would be a very different one to what most are used to.
Navy Times (NT) reports that as part of this new Arctic focus, divers from the Virginia-based Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 took part in more ice dive training last month at Camp Ripley, Minnesota.
These Navy divers conduct a variety of missions for the fleet, from salvage and recovery to ship and submarine repairs, as well as “saturation diving,” which can involve “working and living at extreme depths for days or weeks at a time,” according to the sea service.
The water in Minnesota was between 36 and 38 degrees during last month’s training. This freezing cold environment, notes NT, is “a world away from the bathtub-temperature waters of Virginia and Florida where much of the unit’s dive training takes place.”
Diving beneath 18 inches of ice presents its own hazards and challenges: “Divers usually have direct access to the surface,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Slack told NT. “Knowing we’ll be diving under the thickness of ice, we try to prepare them mentally for the rigors.”
…diving under ice is extremely dark, so during the training, divers are aided by patches of ice above them that have been cleared of snow to allow sunlight in and assist with orientation, Master Chief Jason Mette said.
Emergency procedures take on a more urgent tone under the ice as well, since divers can’t simply surface if things go wrong, Slack said.
In case of an underwater problem, divers are instructed to stick a screw into the ice above and standby while rescue divers deploy lines and do 360-degree sweeps in the murky depths, Slack said.
NT added that while diving in such an environment can be daunting, Mette s emphasizes the same principles as any other dive scenario: “I like to stress to the guys three things: trust topside personnel; trust in your dive buddies, and trust in your equipment.”