Reconnaissance Marines dive to retain certification

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Reconnaissance Marines dive to retain certification

by: Lance Cpl. Donald T. Peterson | .
published: June 21, 2013

Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan -- Gliding beneath the coastal waters, reconnaissance Marines remain undetected to the enemy due their training and certification as combat divers.

Marines with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, honed their diving skills during open-circuit scuba training June 12 off the coast of Camp Schwab.

To maintain a dive certification critical to the battalion’s mission success, the divers moved to a maximum depth of 60 feet and remained submerged underwater for 55 minutes.

“All dive-certified Marines must conduct at least four dives a year to retain their qualification by the Marine Corps’ standards,” said Lt. Col. Eric N. Thompson, the commanding officer of the battalion. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s an open-circuit or closed-circuit dive.”

Open-circuit diving systems discharge exhaled gases directly while closed-circuit systems recycle exhaled gases, scrubbing them of excess carbon dioxide and replacing oxygen. The closed-circuit eliminates the release of bubbles that could give away a diver’s position, according to Thompson. When conducting closed-circuit dives, the recommended depth limit for a diver is 50 feet, while an open-circuit system allows the individual to achieve deeper depths.

“Training like this is important because you never know when you’re going to be called to perform a deep dive for another unit,” said Gunnery Sgt. Niles B. Peden Jr., a dive instructor with the battalion. “There have been several occasions in my career when I have been asked to help recover important gear that has been lost off of a ship.”

Maintaining a rigorous dive-training regimen helps the Marines retain proficiency and avoid common diving problems, such as barotraumas and arterial gas embolisms, according to Peden.

“Barotrauma occurs when a diver ascends to the surface and gas inside the lungs expands, hurting surrounding body tissues,” said Peden. “In some divers, these lung injuries can be bad enough to cause lung collapse and create pneumothorax.

“These injuries may also allow free air bubbles to escape into the blood stream causing an arterial gas embolism,” added Peden. “Arterial gas embolism often causes chest pain, breathing trouble and neurologic problems, such as stroke.”

“Max depth 60 feet, time submerged 55 minutes, all ok,” was stated to the dive master by each diver as they emerged from the water following the successful completion of the potentially hazardous yet mission-essential training.

“The dive went well for everyone, and I feel confident in my fellow Marines’ abilities,” said Thompson. “This training will help ensure that if we ever have to enter an area without detection by subsurface means, we will be able to.”