News: 7th Engineer Dive Team conducts salvage diver qualifications
Story by Staff Sgt. Rauel Tirado
KUWAIT NAVAL BASE, Kuwait – In the middle of the night, in the deep, dark waters of the Persian Gulf, four second class divers of the 7th Engineer Dive Team from Fort Shafter, Hawaii, spent nearly four hours underwater testing their skills to become salvage divers.
The second class divers are recent graduates of the Army Diving School and worked on two staged underwater engineering projects, said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Harrison, a dive supervisor with the 7th EDT and a Phoenixville, Pa., native.
“One of the projects the divers worked on was a 1,000 pound concrete block,” said Harrison. “They were evaluated and tested on many procedures, like using an underwater chainsaw, hydraulic hammer drill, welding and patching techniques.”
The divers had to drill bolts into a concrete block and prepare it to be lifted out of the water without it falling back in, Harrison added. For the second project, divers worked to prepare and lift a sunken water buffalo by welding a patch and de-watering it with compressed air.
“To become a salvage diver, you first need a lot of experience in the water,” said Harrison, an Army diver for 10 years and an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.
It’s the units’ responsibility to train, test and qualify salvage divers, added Harrison.
“Our divers received valuable on-the-job training to prepare for the test,” said Sgt. 1st Class Milton Prater, master diver, 7th EDT, and native of Grand Junction, Colo. “It normally takes a year of training to become a salvage diver.”
For 7th EDT, Prater, an Army diver for 10 years and OIF veteran, gives the approval on whether a diver earns the salvage diver badge.
Prater said divers are ready when they start showing competency in their tasks and start taking the lead in underwater dive missions.
“For me, being a salvage diver is the next step in my career,” said Spc. Timothy Bullington, a second class diver, 7th EDT and a native of Lake Mary, Fla. “My goal is to one day be a master diver.”
As Bullington waited on deck to dive, he mentioned he’s been an Army diver for a year and has been part of several dive missions in Kuwait and other countries during his deployment.
“If anyone is interested in becoming an Army diver, they must have a no-quit attitude,” added Bullington.
The 7th EDT, which consists of more than 20 divers, arrived at Camp Patriot, located on the Kuwait Naval Base, this past winter. The team is here to support Third Army operations throughout its area of responsibility.
The team has conducted multiple dive missions, including bridge inspections in Iraq, security dives in Oman, and training events with Kuwaiti divers.
As the 7th EDT mission extends to different parts of Third Army’s AOR, training and development of Army divers remains a priority for maintaining readiness and sustaining security throughout the region.