For years, Air force Special Tactics operators have trained with and utilized open-circuit dive gear. While this is a great capability and allows for diversity within their mission-set, any savvy tactical individual knows that open-circuit dive gear creates a ton of bubbles. This completely negates the stealth factor, which is often at the heart of a Special Operations mission. While Special Tactics operators do qualify in closed-circuit diving during their initial training, for many, the skill has gone to the wayside.
To upgrade and update themselves, according to a Shadow Spear article, the 125th Special Tactics Squadron (STS) took the lead in implementing new closed-circuit dive gear into their qualification and training regimen. This has been no easy task. The 125th STS Superintendent explained that it has taken the better part of three years to create procedures, inspection protocols, obtain certifications, and of course, procure the gear, in order to make this happen.
The culmination of time and hard work finally resulted in the 125th’s first closed-circuit training and qualification dive with the new equipment, on July 31. This event will go down in history as the first time Air Force members were certified to utilize this new closed-circuit diving equipment.
The 125th Superintendent explained, “The Navy is the proponent for diving within the Department of Defense. They are required to come in and certify your program before you can begin diving with this very particular type of equipment.”
He described the diving gear as Modular Oxygen Diving Equipment — a straightforward rig, which can be put on within 15 seconds. The Superintended went on to say, “It is literally a closed system that you wear on your chest in which you rebreathe your own air after it gets cleaned and goes through a chemical process. There are no bubbles, it is very small and very light, and as a military employment capability, it’s very stealthy.”
As mentioned, the Special Tactics operators qualify in closed-circuit diving in their initial pipeline, but most don’t stay current. The Special Tactics community, for years, has been putting its efforts into fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the pendulum swings and the stage changes, the 125th STS community recognized the importance and value in procuring closed-circuit dive gear and requalifying its operators.
Now, Special Tactics operators will be required to conduct qualification training every six months, in order to stay current.
“Diving as a method of getting stealthily into an environment is just one of the many ways within special tactics that we say we, ‘get to work.’ It’s not the mission, it’s how we get to the mission. We’re buying ourselves options to ‘get to work,’ get to the target, and get to where we can execute our mission on behalf of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Air Force,” the 125th Superintendent said.
He went on to add, “We troop led this from beginning to end. Now, within Air Force Special Operations Command, the other units will be able to follow on in a much faster way. That gives a ground-force commander or a geographic-combatant commander operational agility and strategic flexibility. We’ve increased options and increased lethality within the force.”