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NEWS | June 1, 2021

Eustis divers and emergency services conduct joint exercise

By Erik Siegel 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The 511th Engineer Dive Detachment and JBLE-Eustis Fire and Emergency Services conducted a joint-training exercise at Third Port, the maritime operations hub at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, May 14, 2021.

The 511th conducts diving operations in a maritime environment to support combat, general, geospatial engineering, and defense support of civil authorities. The joint-training exercise sought to validate locations and ambulance exchange points for diving casualties during operations.

“We coordinated pre-determined locations at Third Port and the [James River Reserve Fleet] to see how long the response time was from each location to our recompression chamber—which is one of the most vital pieces of equipment we own,” said U.S. Army Capt. Olivia Schretzman, 511th EDD commander.

The recompression chamber allows for the treatment of diving casualties and hyperbaric treatment schedules, which is vital in saving the lives of a diver with decompression sickness, arterial gas embolisms, and other diving related injuries, Schretzman added.

These joint exercises increase the effectiveness of JBLE-Eustis FES by allowing Fire and Emergency Services the opportunity to practice utilizing advanced cardiovascular life support equipment while monitoring other issues in preparation to transport a casualty.

This exercise validated the 511th EDD’s emergency action plan for future operations and is a key component in keeping divers safe.

“We were just fielded a new rigid inflatable boat, and it is a brand new dive platform that allows us to maneuver and operate around JBLE, Little Creek, and Norfolk.” Schretzman said. “In implementing new equipment and all training we conduct, the first thing we try to do is make it safe. We knew that safety and emergency management was one of the most important factors in keeping our team operational.”

According to Schretzman, JBLE-Eustis FES provided valuable input while running scenarios with the 511th to build an engineer dive standard operating procedure for all EDD’s to enable safe dive operations.

“Their team was willing to support casualty movement and taught us about moving casualties to and from the boats and in/out of their ambulances,” said Schretzman. “We were able to teach their team about the recompression chamber, and how we use the chamber to treat dive casualties suffering from arterial gas embolism, decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning, and many other injuries that our divers face in the deep sea.”

Schretzman added that conducting interagency and joint operations is vital for the 511th EDD’s mission success because it supports theater level operations with many different units and civil authorities.

“Prioritizing local dive training opportunities and being the best steward of the taxpayer dollar is important,” she said. “The better trained our divers are, the better we can support any worldwide contingency or Large Scale Combat operation."