US Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two (MDSU 2) wrapped up two weeks in Guatemala Aug. 8 working with divers from the Fuerza Especial Naval (FEN) as part of Southern Partnership Station 2014.
The FEN are the Guatemalan navy’s special forces team, and, over the last two weeks, they have worked side-by-side with the MDSU 2 divers on a range of underwater skills.
“We covered topics that are basic [for] SCUBA training,” said Navy Diver 1st Class Jose Arbelaez, a MDSU 2 diver. “We went over the regular procedures for emergencies, line-pull signals, and searching procedures.”
Blindfolded line-pull signals on dry land were the first skills the group went over. Line-pull signals are a way for an underwater diver to communicate with someone on the surface. A diver has a line tied around his waist, and there is a person – or, “tender” – on the surface holding the line. The diver or the tender will pull on the line to communicate. Different messages – like “stop” or “move right” – are conveyed depending on how many times the line is pulled.
“We put a mask on the divers, so they can simulate low visibility,” said Arbelaez. “Most of the diving we do in the military … applies to these types of conditions. We [usually dive] on base where there is a lot of mud and silt, and you’re working pretty much with your hands.”
Once the divers practiced line-pull signals and other searching procedures on land, they took those skills into some low visibility water. They gathered into two-man teams made up of one FEN diver and one Navy diver.
“We set up buoys in the water, and we just had the divers guide [each other] all the way through,” said Arbelaez. “We have our guys driving them, and their guys driving us. That way we can make sure the communication stays … the same.”
The divers also worked on SCUBA emergency procedures. This time, instead of low-visibility water, they went to a local swimming pool. One diver would play the role of an unconscious diver on the bottom of the pool. A safety diver would watch as another diver assisted the “unconscious” diver.
“We did a whole day of training in the pool, and it was very, very successful,” said Arbelaez. “We ended up … with everybody communicating perfect. We did it with low visibility also. We put a mask on the divers which was completely covered – simulating darkness.”
The MDSU 2 divers are now moving on to Colombia, the next stop on their Southern Partnership Station mission. Southern Partnership Station 2014 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces in Central and South America and the Caribbean. U.S. military teams work with partner nation forces during naval-focused training exercises, military-to-military engagements and community relations projects in an effort to enhance partnerships with regional maritime activities and improve the operational readiness of participants.