News: Seabee Divers Stop in Timor Leste During Their Pacific Deployment
By Chief (SCW/MDV) Terence M Juergens
Underwater Construction Team Two
CAMP LENHOFF, Timor-Leste - Last month nine Seabee Divers from Underwater Construction Team Two (UCT TWO) arrived in Timor Leste via C-130, tired and jet lagged from a painful 4 days of flying. They were there to perform hydrographic and side-scan surveys of various sites in support of a Pacific Command Bi-Lateral exercise. Additionally, they were tasked with the evaluation of a future site for Timor Leste’s Maritime Security Force Headquarters and providing Mil-to-Mil training with Timor Leste’s fledgling dive force.
With support from NMCB 74 they hit the ground running, offloading five pallets of dive and geotechnical gear for transport to Camp Lenhoff.
Equipment was quickly prepped and loaded on to trucks to get started with hydrographic surveys of Manatutu Beach. Manatutu beach is the site of a U.S. amphibious landing zone with forward movement to various training objectives. Data from Hydrographic and side scan surveys was used to give a 3-D picture of the ocean floor, identifying any potential hazards to navigation that could damage amphibious crafts. Survey technicians covered over 2 square kilometers of ocean floor greatly aiding Beach Masters from the USS Green Bay.
After completion of Manatutu surveys, the focus turned to Dili harbor, the main shipping port in Timor Leste. Working with the United Nations Maritime Advisor the plan was to provide comprehensive data to develop a strategic plan for the development of a maritime security headquarters. This include detailed topographic, hydrographic and side scan surveys along with the collection of soil data. All information will aid engineers to ensure the Timorese are provided a sound platform that they can operate from. Divers were faced with a myriad of obstacles that come with operating in a developing country. Divers spent 7 days working side-by-side with the National Police of Timor Leste (PNTL) Maritime Security Force collecting mountains of data, including side scan imagery of two WWII era vessels. All information will be recorded in a comprehensive report for further review by engineers.
Timor Leste also has a robust military that includes a small contingent of divers that are constantly training and willing to learn. Members of UCT TWO answered the call to provide a day of classroom training that encompassed basic diving theory, including physics, physiology and recompression chamber operation. The seven untried PNTL divers were very attentive and gained very valuable information. According to the Officer-in-Charge of the Seabee Divers, Chief Blair Mercado, “We understand that it takes years of training to properly absorb the information we taught, however, the main point we wanted to drive home is that diving is inherently dangerous and no matter how much you think you know, you’re always learning.”At the end of the day the U.S. and Timorese divers shared a meal and some sea stories making it a very successful event.
Fulfilling their mission of supporting the Fleet and Marine forces in the PACOM AOR, Seabees from UCT 2 were in Timor Leste 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.