The US Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School in Key West, Florida, recently hosted a 3-day competition to determine the Best two-man Combat Diver team out of 13 teams picked from US Army Special Operations  Command (USASOC) and Naval Special Warfare (NSW).

The ten events included a PT test, a Kayak race, an academic evaluation of the finer points of dive physics, and an airborne water drop.  In the end, a team from 5th Special Forces Group was victorious.  “It was close to the very end,” said one of the winning Green Berets in an interview last evening. “Going into the last day, any team could have won.”  All of the participants in the event are still on active duty, so we cannot mention them by name.

A diver in the water at NAS Key West.
A participant in the 2023 Best Dive Team Competition validates his equipment on September 25th, 2023. US Army photo by K. Kassens.

Someone we can mention by name, however, is Major Brandon Schwartz, commander of Special Forces Underwater Operations, who is hosting and coordinating the event. He stated in a pre-competition interview with SOFREP that he was looking forward to holding the event at his facility for the first time. He noted that the waters surrounding Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, where the majority of the events will be held, were excellent for all levels of divers, from beginners to advanced. “The warm, clear waters and variety of depths and underwater settings make it an excellent place to dive.”, he said.

The commander went on to note, “The core mission of the Special Forces Underwater Operations is to develop diving and underwater infiltration skills for the US Army Special Operations Command. Additionally, we offer training in these areas to members of other military branches and welcome them to come here and train.”

**A promotional video for the competition.

To make the competition across the different services fair, the events were set up so that they were something that all qualified combat divers could complete. All of the competitors have been through a joint accredited institution, so they all have the same abilities. The scoring process on all events has gone through a boarding process to ensure that it is equitable.

Competitors complete subsurface pool events afternoon of SEP 26 - Photo by K Kassens, SWCS
Competitors complete subsurface pool events on the afternoon of SEP 26 – Photo by K Kassens, SWCS.

Each event in the competition included either a physical or mental challenge, all of which were based on the skills fundamental to a basic combat diver. The competition was designed to showcase the participants’ abilities under stress, evaluate their anxiety levels, and see how well they represent their units, all aimed at bringing out the best in the participants.