A Special Forces engineer sergeant has died during a swimming exercise at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. 

SSG Paul Lincoln Olmstead died while participating in the 5th Special Forces Group Maritime Assessment Course, which prepares soldiers for the Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC). This is the second death involving a Green Beret during scuba training in the past few months.

SSG Olmstead was conducting a surface swim at the Joe Swing Park Reservoir at Fort Campbell when he went underwater and never resurfaced. A search began for him immediately, according to a press release by the Army. Olmstead was assigned to B Co. 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group.  

“This is an absolute tragedy, especially when we lose someone as capable and promising as Lincoln,” said Colonel Paul Peters, commander of 19th Special Forces Group. “Sometimes we expect this sort of thing in combat, but not during training, which makes this difficult for the unit and especially the family.”

“We are committed to ensuring the family is supported over the coming days, weeks, and months,” Peters added.

Olmstead leaves behind a wife and two children. 

subsurface swim MAC pre-scuba Green Berets
Soldiers from the 10th SFG conduct a subsurface swim in the MAC or pre-scuba course prior to attending the CDQC in Key West, Florida. (DVIDS)

Olmstead joined the Utah Army National Guard in 2016 and graduated from John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School’s Special Forces Engineer Sergeants Course in 2019. He was an honor graduate of the Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat Course; a graduate of the Special Forces Sniper Course; Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) Course; and Military Freefall Course.

Olmstead’s body was recovered Wednesday morning with the help of Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and Montgomery County Emergency Services. He was pronounced dead by Fort Campbell emergency personnel and taken to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital.

The incident is still under investigation.


The Maritime Assessment Course

The Maritime Assessment Course (MAC), formerly known as “Pre-Scuba,” is an assessment tool and training course designed to physically and mentally prepare selected soldiers for the rigors of the seven-week Combat Diver Qualification Course. CDQC is one of the Army’s toughest schools. It certifies troops to conduct underwater combat operations. MAC is a prerequisite course for going to the Naval Air Station, Key West, Florida to attend CDQC. 

MAC pre-scuba Green Berets
A Green Beret from the 10th SFG recovers a 20-pound weight from the bottom of the pool during the MAC or pre-scuba course. (DVIDS)

Major Dan Lessard, a spokesperson for 1st Special Forces Command, said the training was suspended on Wednesday but resumed a day later after safety protocols were re-evaluated. Training for the course was moved from the reservoir to a swimming pool, which was considered a more controlled environment. The training always has a high ratio of instructors to students in the water for safety reasons. 

Back in July, another Green Beret, SSG Micah Walker from the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, became unresponsive during a water-treading exercise at the Army’s CDQC in Key West. He died soon after.

Walker’s death remains under investigation.