PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- The USS Arizona Memorial is one of America's greatest historical landmarks. The sunken ship is a tomb and the waters surrounding it are restricted. Diving at the memorial is a rare and special privilege, given only on special circumstances and only to the most experienced of divers.
So it was an honor when the 7th Dive Detachment, 65th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, had the opportunity of diving there, June 28.
"I've been diving a lot and you just felt the weight of World War II on your shoulders under the water," said Lt. Col. Darman Place, battalion commander for the 65th Eng. Bn., summarizing the event.
The dive served as the culminating event for the detachment's sergeant's time training. On the days leading up to the dive, June 26 and June 27 consisted of classes, as well as inspections of the supports for the USS Arizona.
The structure must be inspected every 10 years in order to ensure that it is safe and stable. The training at Pearl Harbor was mutually beneficial to the National Parks Service and the 7th Dive Detachment. The National Parks Service saved money by not having to contract the work out and the Detachment received useful training and the opportunity of a lifetime.
The Detachment's young divers benefit from this kind of training. Army Divers are in the unique military occupational specialty 12D, whose duties include inspecting and cleaning watercraft propellers and hulls, patching damaged watercraft hulls, salvaging equipment, patrolling the water, helping with underwater construction of piers and harbor facilities, and surveying rivers, beaches, and harbors for underwater obstacles.
Jobs such as the inspection of the USS Arizona are technical and require that Soldiers learn about scuba diving as well as how to weld, cut, use power tools and use explosives underwater. Young divers learn these skills during their entry level dive training, but master the trade through mentoring from 1st Class Divers and Master Divers.
"We'll send one experienced diver down and one new diver down," explained Sgt. 1st Class Beau Woodcox (Master Diver), first sergeant of the 7th Dive Detachment. "He's [new diver] getting training the whole time we're gathering good information for the park service. They [experienced divers] are inspecting the piles; making sure they're going to last longer. As they are doing that they are showing the new divers exactly what to look for and they're going through the class they did on Tuesday and Wednesday."
After the inspections, the detachment was able to relax and take in the momentousness of touring the USS Arizona underwater.
"When you get to some parts of the vessel you can see where some of the bombs made impact with the ship and you can get a sense of how much damage was done to that ship," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Rohde, 1st Class Diver, 7th Dive Detachment. "It was pretty cool just to get to dive the Arizona."
It was a well-earned reward for a hard working and dedicated unit.
"The 7th Dive Team is an amazing unit that does just about everything we do on land, underwater," said Lt. Col. Darman Place, Battalion Commander, 65th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command. "It's no surprise that they were called out here to do this work. They are widely regarded as the best dive unit in the Army and are certainly on par with anything the Navy has to offer."