Special Forces Combat Divers are a rare breed in an already elite community.

Only a small number of Army Green Berets volunteer for and go through the Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC), arguably the toughest school in the Army, and ultimately qualify to serve in a dive team.

Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs), 12-man teams of Unconventional Warfare experts, specialize in different insertion methods. There are Military Freefall teams, Mountain teams, Mobility teams, and Dive teams. There are five active duty (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th)  and two National Guard (19th and 20th) Special Forces Groups. Each Group has four battalions of three companies each. Every company has six Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs). Only one out of these six is a dive team.

But the state of the Special Forces Combat Diver capability is far from healthy. Indeed, SOFREP has learned that chronic neglect, conflicting operational demands, and an institutional lack of understanding by both the Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) and the 1st Special Forces Command (1st SFC) have brought the capability to a perilous state.

We Don’t Have Basic Gear 

Numerous dive teams are missing basic gear. To provide just an example, dive teams in the 10th Special Forces Group had to wait six years to get a certain piece of basic gear that is essential for underwater operations. In a lot of cases, the cost of the gear is quite small compared to other pieces of equipment.

The absence of essential gear not only prevents dive teams from training but also from being utilized in a real-world maritime scenario. But here’s the rub: There isn’t any unclassified evidence that suggests that dive teams have ever been used in a conflict. So, some would argue, there is no real need to devote attention and, more importantly, funds to dive teams in order to maintain a capability that goes underutilized.

In that, dive teams are faced with a similar quandary as the Crisis Response Force (CRF) companies. CRFs are an elite cadre of Green Berets who specialize in Direct Action, Counterterrorism, and Hostage Rescue operations. Each Special Forces Group has a CRF company. But there are other units that do almost the same job as the CRFs but better: These are Delta Force and SEAL Team Six. To be sure, Tier 1 units can’t do CT Foreign Internal Defence as good as the CRFs, but that skillset alone can’t justify the necessary cost to maintain the CRFs in their current state. So, SOFREP has learned that USASOC and 1st SFC have decided to put the CRFs through a significant downsize because they cost too much for providing a capability that is almost never employed.

You can trace the lack of support for the combat diver capability in the operational environments that the U.S. military has been operating in for the last 20 years. Desert and mountains offer little opportunity for dive teams to shine. And when you can’t justify your cost, you better be ready to suffer the consequences. And dive teams are suffering indeed.