News: UCT-2 divers spend summer in Pacific Missile Range waters
By EAC (SCW/DV) Blair Mercado / UCT-2
KAUAI, Hawaii - Seabees from Underwater Construction Team 2, based at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, spent two months this summer performing stabilization, inspection and repairing cable off the Coast of the Hawaiian Islands.
Construction Dive Detachment Charlie spent much of June and July repairing winter damage at Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, and preparing the range for this year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. Held in August, RIMPAC is the largest international maritime exercise in the world, involving 22 nations, 42 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.
PMRF is the world's largest instrumented multi-environmental testing and training missile range capable of supporting surface, subsurface, air and space operations simultaneously. It is the only range in the world where submarines, surface ships, aircraft and space vehicles can operate and be tracked simultaneously. There are more than 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range and more than 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace.
Seabee divers combine the best of both disciplines, relying on their construction capabilities as Seabees and their competence as Divers to accomplish missions that no other unit in the Navy is capable of performing.
For this task, UCT 2 Seabee divers worked in depths from 30 to 120 feet of seawater off a Lighter Amphibious Resupply Craft (LARC). Three tons of cast iron pipe, designed to fit around the cables and protect them from the harsh sea state were installed. They also dove to depths of 110 feet in the open ocean to perform maintenance on 10 practice mines in a training mine field; with a bottom depth as deep as 450 feet, there was no room for error.
In addition, two members of CDD Charlie , Builder 1st Class (SCW/DV) Donny Wedekind and Construction Mechanic Second Class (SCW) Ryan O’Toole, provided support to the SPAWAR Marine Mammal Unit using LARC’s and small boats to recover practice rounds and targets for the exercise.
Crossing the pristine Hawaiian beaches on their way to work presented a unique challenge. A mother sea turtle decided to lay her eggs on the beach next to the only landing zone for the Det’s equipment. Base environmentalists put up a safety barrier and with careful maneuvering, day to day operations were not affected. This was a great example of environmental stewardship by the US Navy, and the UCT 2 Seabees were happy to report that after seven weeks of anticipation, all of the hatchling made it safely to the ocean.
Detachment Charlie worked six days a week to take advantage of the favorable weather conditions, completing more than 170 dives totaling more than 70 hours of bottom time, ensuring the range would be ready for the exercise.
“Our Seabee divers performed a variety of tasks from drilling stabilization points, replacing zinc anodes and placing hundreds of pieces of split pipe to protect the sensitive acoustic range cables from the sea state,” said Construction Electrician 2nd Class (SCW/DV) Daniel Lehne.
“During the winter months, the rough wave action will move the cable across the sand, rock and coral, stripping off the protective covering potentially destroying the cables,” he explained. “The work we do here saves the Navy hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance costs compared to a civilian company and millions in replacement costs if the system were to go down.”
Steel Worker 1st Class Nate Terrazas added, “This is the premier training range for the Pacific and the work we do here contributes directly towards Fleet readiness.”
Lt. Sam Williams, a Naval Air Systems Command Integrated Project Team Lead overseeing work on the range, agreed that UCT 2’s work extended the life of the range and save the Navy money.
“The alternatives would be decreased training capability or a total range refurbishment, which could cost the Navy upwards of $50 million,” he said. “The UCT skill set is unique because the unit has expertise in both construction and deep sea diving. This allows the unit to perform quality construction work in the hazardous ocean environment.”
Fulfilling their mission of supporting the Fleet and Marine forces in the PACOM AOR, Seabees from UCT 2 were at PMRF on their first stop during a 6 month deployment across the Pacific that will take them from Kauai to Japan to the south Pacific and Naval Region Northwest. UCT 2 provides responsive inshore and ocean underwater construction, inspection, repair and maintenance to ocean facilities for Navy, Marine Corps and Joint Forces engaged in military operations.