News: Cooperation Abroad
SATTAHIP, Thailand - Seabees from Underwater Construction Team Two, based out of Port Hueneme Calif., deployed to Sattahip, Thailand, May 2 as part of their 2012 deployment cycle in support of the 18th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Exercise. Other participating units included; the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), guided missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), U.S. Coast Guard national security cutter USCGC Waesche (WMSL-751), dry cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11), the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), P-3C Orion, SH-60 Seahawk aircraft, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Forty, Navy Riverine Squadron One, the U.S. 7th Fleet band, Marines from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment and III Marine Expeditionary Force, and others. Exercise CARAT is a Commander Task Force 73 sponsored series of Bilateral Navy to Navy Exercises focusing on improving interoperability and increasing regional stability in Southeast Asia.
UCT TWO arrived via Naval Air Liaison with 10 tons of equipment. Their equipment included SCUBA diving gear, underwater hydraulic tools, two inflatable zodiac boats, hydrographic equipment, side scan sonar, and multiple pier inspection tools.
The 16 members from UCT TWO, Construction Diving Detachment Bravo hit the ground running to participate in Exercise CARAT. CDD/Bravo was tasked to complete a detailed level I and II inspection of Thong Prong Pier in Sattahip, Thailand.
Furthermore, UCT Divers were tasked to train side-by-side with the Royal Thai Navy Underwater Construction divers on Side-Scan Sonar, Hydrographic survey, and underwater searching techniques to identify navigation hazards during HA/DR SMEE (Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Recovery Subject Matter Expert Exchange).
During the SMEE UCT-TWO personnel provided training on the setup and operation of the Side Scan Sonar and Hydrographic survey equipment. Upon completion of the training, UCT TWO and RTN divers worked together to collect data for both a side scan and hydrographic survey of Had Yao Beach. The survey was conducted one day prior to an amphibious landing on Had Yao Beach by U.S. and Thai Marine Expeditionary Forces.
During another element of the SMEE exchange UCT TWO divers and RTN divers dove side by side to locate a simulated obstruction for removal in a disaster recovery situation. During the dive Electrician’s Chief (Seabee Combat Warfare / Master Diver) Terence Juergens conducted a diving casualty drill on the dive team. A diver simulated being unconscious after surfacing from a dive due to Arterial Gas Embolism, an extremely dangerous diving related illness.
UCT TWO, and RTN divers worked together to recover the casualty into the dive boat and safely transport the diver to shore. “This is the third Mil to Mil exercise we have done this deployment, and each time we work with foreign militaries I’m amazed at how much we can learn from one another. During the drill everyone did what they needed to do, it didn’t matter if they were UCT or RTN. It is always a great experience working with other countries” said Construction Mechanic First Class (SCW/DV) James Richardson.
UCT TWO’s other tasking was the inspection of Thong Prong Pier located in Sattahip, Thailand. The pier is very important to the local infrastructure and is utilized for off-load of ammunition to support Cobra Gold as well as other Thai Military operations.
Constructed in 1969 this 40-plus-year-old pier has stood the test of time with little or no maintenance. It has been deemed unsafe for off-load of ammunition due to severe damage to the fendering system and severe corrosion of steel caissons. The amount of effort involved in the inspection and data collection was immense; utilizing SCUBA/DP2 and underwater inspection tools divers logged over 24 hours of bottom time to complete a full and detailed inspection. UCT TWO’s Seabee divers spent 3 weeks working on the pier. Their work included; data collection, Hydrographic surveys, side scan sonar data and soil penetration tests.
“The amount of work that we were tasked with in a relatively short amount of time shows how versatile the UCTs are. We came here to get the job done, and get it done right” said Construction Electrician Chief (SCW /MDV) Terence Juergens. “These guys are professionals, you couldn’t ask for a better group of Seabees.”
With a maximum depth of 45 feet of sea water divers inspected 64 steel caissons that were 16 feet in circumference and heavily encased in marine growth. In perfect conditions this is a daunting task. When faced with an average tidal shift of more than 20 feet and at times sustained currents of over three knots, divers had to use their time wisely and work at times of slack tide when the tidal shifts were manageable.
In accordance with inspection manuals UCT divers inspected specific locations on the caissons, recording ultrasonic and Bathycorrometer measurements. This data is used to detect the remaining thickness and corrosion potential of the steel caissons. Builder Second Class (SCW/DV) Christopher Farmer stated,
“Overall I thought it was a great experience, this was the first time I’ve used destructive testing techniques to get inspection results. It was very challenging. I hope we come back to do the repair work.”
The detailed underwater inspection of this pier is crucial to better determine the structural integrity and future repair plans that could be implemented by NAVFAC. This pier is unique in the fact that it serves as one of the only locations to off load ammunition in the area. While this is deemed unsafe for use the Navy will be forced to use commercial ports in Northern Thailand that impose logistical constraints that could possibly hinder future operations.
Construction Electrician Chief (SCW/DV) Adam Winters, assistant officer in charge of CDD Bravo was grateful for the hospitality of the RNT divers and hard work by all parties involved, stating “The pier inspection and Mil to Mil training was a great success thanks to unparalleled cooperation by everyone involved. There was a tremendous amount of knowledge transferred between UCT TWO and the RTN divers. The quality of work presented by the detachment was outstanding and will help to improve the readiness of the Thai Navy as well as the Pacific Fleet.”