Nineteen personnel from Australian Clearance Diving Team One’s Maritime Tactical Operations Defence Element (MTO DE) are embarked in the United States Navy’s Amphibious Transport Dock USS Anchorage for the sea phase of Exercise RIMPAC 2014, where they’re working with seven other mine counter measures (MCM) and diving units from the United States, the Netherlands, Chile, New Zealand, Canada and Japan.
For these units, RIMPAC has involved a number of integration and training activities, which culminated in a scenario-based ‘free-play’ phase where the MTO DE conducted Advance Force Very Shallow Water MCM operations in Southern California’s naval training areas.
The MTO element will take a broad spectrum of new experiences home with them when they leave RIMPAC, with members citing numerous highlights.
One such highlight was the opportunity to integrate with other Very Shallow Water MCM diving units from around the world, which allowed the team to gain valuable insights into a range of diving and Very Shallow Water MCM techniques. This included exposure to a wide variety of different equipment and practices employed by the various nations involved.
One experience that few in the team will forget was the rare opportunity to work with the United States Navy’s Marine Mammal System, who employed dolphins to locate and mark sea mines within the Very Shallow Water zone. The dolphins themselves were also embarked in USS Anchorage, in a customised shipboard habitat!
During the eleven day tactical phase, between the 17th and 28th of July, the Australian MTO DE personnel were employed in tasks compromising of reacquisition diving and sub-surface rapid environmental assessments, where newly acquired underwater navigation and SONAR equipment was used to search for and identify sea mines. These tasks were primarily conducted by night and required MTO to stage operations from sea.
Able Seaman Clearance Diver Ricky Coote said the training was invaluable.
“The diving that we have conducted here at RIMPAC has provided us with valuable hands-on experience using and interpreting SONAR pictures underwater,” Able Seaman Coote said.
Able Seaman Clearance Diver Matt Filliponi said the RIMPAC experience would further enhance the tactical procedures practiced by Australian Clearance Diving Team One.
“The diving we’ve done here has given us the chance to test and adjust some of the standard operating procedures that we have all worked to develop,” he said.
So far at RIMPAC, the MTO DE has taken part in numerous diving activities and mission profiles, achieving approximately 40 hours of combined dive time and positively identifying 30 Very Shallow Water mine shapes.
Being based in San Diego for RIMPAC 2014 has also provided members of the MTO with opportunities to become well acquainted with Southern California, and its local population, with all personnel reporting that they have experienced a warm reception and have fielded numerous questions about the exercise, and the Royal Australian Navy.
Press Release, July 29, 2014; Image: Australian Navy