Recon Marines dive Hawaiian depths, return to amphibious roots

Marine Corps Base Hawaii – Kaneohe Bay
Story by Cpl. James Sauter

Date: 01.18.2013
Posted: 01.18.2013 14:21
News ID: 100753
Recon Marines dive Hawaiian depths, return to amphibious roots

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII — The water of Kaneohe Bay remained calm as the sun broke through thick, grey clouds. The wind whistled gently and light sparkled off of the ocean’s surface while boaters cruised around the bay, enjoying the sunny, serene day.

Far from the observation of curious eyes, reconnaissance Marines of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion from Okinawa and members of the Singapore Armed Forces Naval Diving Unit sharpened their diving capabilities and amphibious skills during Exercise Sandfisher, Jan. 9.

“It’s a tremendous experience to be working with the Singaporeans because their team leader has more than 12 years of experience as a diver,” said Staff Sgt. King Ritchie, 3rd Recon Bn. dive team leader and native of Kirkland, Wash. “He’s been more than willing to share his experience and knowledge and that has been very helpful to our dive training.”

They arrived, Jan. 7, and conducted bilateral dive training on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 9. The training focused on diving techniques to gain a better grasp on how two different military cultures accomplish the same mission.

“This exercise is really to help build interoperability and techniques between the two of us,” said Capt. Brian Lusczyncki, a platoon commander with Bravo Company, 3rd Recon Bn., and native of Bremerton, Wash. “Our skill sets shifted toward the demands of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom; namely, deserts. Because we’ve deployed there so much, we’ve had to limit our training in amphibious reconnaissance skills.”

During the initial briefing, the Marines and Singaporean sailors discussed the scope of the training evolution. The objective was for teams of two divers to navigate through the water toward a buoy 500 yards from shore and back. Toward the buoy, the teams swam along the surface on their backs. On the return swim, they navigated underwater. After the brief, the Marines and Singaporean sailors donned their gear and headed out toward the water ramp for insertion.

“When it comes to diving, everything we do as divers is practical,” Ritchie said. “We’re wearing so much gear and it’s all very cumbersome. It turns out, our training and tactics for accomplishing these missions are almost identical to the Singaporeans.”

Once in the water, divers paired together. One diver from each team was responsible for navigating toward the buoy and back. After each team made it along the surface, the next team signaled to the instructor on a safety boat they were ready to dive.

Using nothing but an underwater compass and depth gauge to find their way, each team dove to depths from a few to 10 feet and ventured back to shore. The only obvious sign that showed where the teams were was their inflatable buoy marker, bobbing across the water surface to the ramp.

“I always wanted to dive and jump out of planes, so it’s really cool to be able to do all of this stuff for my job,” said Lance Cpl. Cody Wurdelman, a native from Chicago and reconnaissance man for 3rd Recon Bn. “It was really good to get input from the Singaporeans because this is their naval dive unit. What I learned from them helped when I veered off course a little bit and ended up in some coral and only a foot of water.”

After the training evolution concluded, the Marines and Singaporean sailors returned to the briefing room to discuss the successes and lessons learned from the training. They continued with another evolution the following afternoon to improve on techniques and tactics that would be used in a later special patrol insertion and extraction and night direct action training evolutions.

“In our work-up for deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit later this year, we have to train and understand how to dive and operate our equipment,” Lusczyncki said. “These amphibious techniques are things we train to do and we’re honing those techniques now to support the overall mission of the MEU.”