As the President of the Combat Diver Foundation (CDF), I felt the need to comment on this story that was first reported by SOFREP and later re-reported by Business Insider.
First a disclaimer: The Combat Diver Foundation has no official relationship with the many military commands, law enforcement agencies, or intelligence units that maintain a combat dive capability.
That said, CDF does enjoy excellent connections with the Combat Diver community writ large and communicates regularly with the leadership in many of the organizations mentioned above. Though they only share information with us that is already approved for public release, I have personally had the privilege of visiting unit Maritime Operations Facilities and speaking to Combat Divers in leadership and management positions across the joint force.
My observations differ from Mr. Atlamazoglou’s in several ways.
Combat Divers are well represented among the leadership of the Joint Special Operations Force to include the current and previous commanders of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command and senior enlisted leaders at U.S. Army Special Operations Command and multiple Special Forces Groups. Even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, and his CSEL are Combat Divers trained at the Special Forces Underwater Operations School (SFUWO) at Key West. Though it is certain they must balance competing priorities, their understanding of the capability and its utility are not in serious doubt.
This is reflected in the equipment, training, and facilities that support the capability. In a visit to one of the Special Forces Groups in June, I noted brand new boats and motors, diver propulsion systems, two-way communications devices, expendable items such as dry and wet suits, and well designed and maintained facilities purpose-built for the mission. In most cases, these were not simply new or unused pieces of old technology, they were new designs. Other Groups are similarly, if not uniformly, equipped.
We recognize there are challenges and an unfortunate precedent for minimizing the Army Special Operations dive program. It is expensive and has been used only rarely in its operational history. But it has indeed been used and it is necessary, if for no other reason than to provide tactical options for Special Forces units, maintain their interoperability with allies, and complicate adversary planning. We understand that the last 19 years of warfare provided little need for combat dive operations and that operational deployments and preparatory training took precedence. That said, the pace of that fight is slowing and the shift from post-9/11 warfare to great power competition increases the need for excellence in littoral operations including combat diving. In this respect, we agree with Mr. Atlamazoglou: the capability must not be allowed to atrophy.
Preserving the history of the Combat Dive program and the amazing accomplishments of Combat Divers across nearly eight decades is the reason the Combat Diver Foundation exists. If that has the additional impact of enhancing U.S. national security by raising awareness of the program’s importance (and its challenges), then we will be satisfied that we have served the country well. Though we will remain vigilant, we are comfortable (for the moment) that the program is reasonably well resourced and we look forward to many more years of U.S. Army excellence in underwater operations.
Combat Diver Foundation