I was with 1st Group of the Green Berets (GB) Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 155 at Aleutian Island chain Naval Air Station (NAS) Adak, Alaska. We were the combat dive detachment in my battalion. We were been given a most unusual mission to execute in Adak as part of a training exercise: mimic a Russian Spetsnaz unit and cause chaos, havoc, and unrest on the island. Create a real pickle of a situation for the U.S. Navy security forces at the naval air station, and conduct a final assault on a key technological node. That is easy enough for a Green Beret to digest, but what were the left and right limits in that mission statement? What were the parameters? What was the specific guidance? There was none. That would equal several weeks of misery for a lot of the inhabitants of Naval Air Station Adak.

There were two Special Forces ODAs from my company deployed on the mission, with a U.S. Navy Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine in support. The main assault ODA deployed from Bangor Submarine Base in Washington State. That was not far at all from Ft. Lewis, Washington, where 1st Special Forces Group hung their hats. Both of our ODAs went to conduct dockside training on the re-sinkable boat (Navy personnel often refer to a submarine as a boat), though my ODA would not conduct the final submarine-launched assault. We deployed to Adak days in advance to start intense reconnaissance of the air station security forces and prepare the battlespace.


The loose guidance from the mission statement called for a tactical underwater operation to emplace simulated explosive charges onto the piers of a key dock structure to render it inoperable in the conduct of the exercise. That explained why my ODA would not make the submarine transit and dry-deck launch to shore. The dive operation would be in extremely cold water after midnight. We would wear heavy polypropylene garments under a bulky Viking drysuit. We would not use traditional open-circuit SCUBA tanks, since they emit bubbles and betray a diver’s position with a turbulent surface signature. We opted for the tactical closed circuit Dreager LAR-V (LAR-five) pure oxygen rebreather.

The breathing system displaces nitrogen from the body, replacing it with pure oxygen (O2). Rather than emitting the exhaled breath into the water, it processes it through a can of soda lime product that “scrubs” the carbon dioxide out of the breath and subsequently adds a measure of O2 back for inhalation. It was a difficult and dangerous system to use, but from the perspective of an observer at the surface of a body of water, no bubbles or other indications of divers below could be detected. My Team Sergeant, our Senior Engineer, and I would be comprise the Dreager dive team when the time came.

Our first order of business as newcomers to Adak was to get to know our way around. That wasn’t difficult because the island was so small and there were barely a couple thousand U.S. Navy personnel and family dependents stationed there. We rented a wreck of a car to get around in. There were only a certain number of cars on the island, and they stayed on the island pretty much until they fell apart. Assigned personnel did not bring cars with them, and they did not take them with them when they left. These were Adak cars. The bus lines were comprehensive. The amenities were all there, albeit stark. There was a base exchange, a church, a post office, a commissary, two clubs, a gym, and a recreation center, just to name the most important few.

Key to the U.S. presence on the island was a submarine-detection station that listened primarily for Soviet submarine traffic navigating the Bering Sea. That station was the main objective of the assault ODA when they they finally arrived by submarine. I was marginally disappointed in not being able to make the boat transit and or assault on the detection station, yet I was stoked about the upcoming dive and intrigued by what we might have in mind to rile up the good people of Adak. We had a car, found a dwelling, set up our tactical operations center (TOC) and began to plan.

Of immediate importance to the entire operation was conducting a reconnaissance and shoreline survey to select a suitable place for the assault ODA to land. They would launch from their submarine transport approximately 15 nautical miles from land and navigate in two combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC) to their beach landing site (BLS).