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NEWS | June 7, 2017

Underwater welding: Army divers keep Third Port afloat

By Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In order to sharpen their skills, the 74th Engineer Dive Detachment deep sea divers participated in an underwater training exercise at Fort Eustis, June 5-9, 2017.

During the exercise, the detachment, which falls under the 92nd Eng. Battalion, 20th Eng. Brigade, practiced welding in a tank in preparation for a salvage project scheduled for the end of June at Third Port. A salvage project is any piece of equipment, vessel or ship that requires repairs due to damage from a sea-stay, or overuse that may require construction support to return to its normal state.

For this salvage project, the divers plan to inspect Third Port’s piers to determine if repairs are required and if they have the capabilities to perform them.

“Being able to rehabilitate areas, such as Third Port or a vessel, prolongs the life expectancy of equipment and allows it to be fully operational,” said U.S. Army Capt. Barrett LeHardy, 92nd Eng. Btn., 20th Eng. Bde., 74th Eng. Dive Det. commander. “It’s important to perform rehabilitation construction because like anything, structures have a life expectancy and wear down over time. Instead of having to completely replace it, it can be rehabilitated, saving the government a significant amount of money.”

To prepare for work in murky, cold or high current waters, the divers train in a tank that provides the team with a controlled environment they can alter to practice their skills in any type of setting, two times a year.

“We can drain the tank, refill it and have any visibility we want as often as we need,” said U.S. Army Spc. Michael Brown, 74th Eng. Dive Det. salvage diver. “We can do any type of training we need to here, from cutting and welding to using hydraulic tools. A lot of training operations that we can’t really do in open water, we can do here.”

Using the tank also allows the divers to practice using specialized tools needed to perform construction in the waterways. For example, to prevent a voltage discharge under water, drills, pumps and other power tools rely on a surface-side hydraulic pump instead of electricity. The team also uses torches that ignite underwater when used with compressed oxygen for welding. 

With the divers’ assets, training and capabilities, the detachment can respond to a vessel’s structural issues in a moment’s notice, ensuring vital access to open waters.

As the only operational pier for deployment readiness and recovery in the Army, the dive team, not only keeps the Third Port’s transportation mission going, but offers global mission success and operational readiness through their rehabilitation capabilities.