Marine Divers Train at New Open-Water Site

Gunnery Sgt. Zachary Burgart and Master Sgt. Brad Colbert, combatant divers training in Lake Anna, Va. (U.S. Marine Corps/Carden Hedelt)
Gunnery Sgt. Zachary Burgart and Master Sgt. Brad Colbert, combatant divers training in Lake Anna, Va. (U.S. Marine Corps/Carden Hedelt)

SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — Marine combatant divers from the National Capital Region and Marine Corps Base Quantico took to Lake Anna, Va., for the first time July 21 to refresh dive skills and maintain qualifications. They used both open-circuit and closed-circuit underwater breathing apparatuses as well as an underwater propulsion device.

About an hour southwest of Quantico, the lake gives divers a training opportunity that Reconnaissance and Amphibious Raids, part of Infantry Weapons Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, hasn’t offered in years: the chance to dive into something other than a pool.

“You have more to contend with,” said Navy Diver 1st Class Jason Young. “You’re going to get murky water. You’re going to get the distances you want to dive. You’re going to get more hazards to contend with. You just have to pay more attention.

“In a pool you can see the bottom; you know you’re only going to be maybe 12 feet deep,” he said. “You just wind up going through the motions. Diving in these conditions stresses more of your diving skills. You can practice procedures in the pool, but here is where you apply them.”

Over the course of three days, about a dozen senior officer and enlisted Marine combatant divers dove into the lake to accomplish a variety of tasks.

They set up and navigated an underwater compass course, explored the lake bottom for hazards, and trained with the Diver Propulsion Device, a two-man underwater mobility platform that helps Marines move faster under the surface.

“That’s something we’ve never used in a pool,” Young said. “It’s pretty much pointless. You’d get a little speed up, and then you’d be at the other side of the pool.”

Master Sgt. Brad Colbert, project officer for small craft, echoed that sentiment.

“I’ve been using the DPD since 2006, and I learned more about the DPD in those three days than I knew before,” Colbert said. “We were using new equipment from the manufacturer, which greatly improved the ride quality and stability in the DPD.”

Colbert and Gunnery Sgt. Zachary Burgart, project officer for amphibious reconnaissance equipment, spent a significant time using the DPD together.

“It was a good chance for him,” Colbert said. “He saw what the DPD could do and what it offers to the operating forces.”

While they rode the DPD, Colbert and Burgart wore the MK25 closed-circuit underwater breathing apparatus. Called a “re-breather,” the MK25 absorbs carbon dioxide from users’ exhaled breath, thus allowing them to keep recycling their breath for a time. The breathing system is completely sealed so it does not give away a diver’s location with bubbles.

Other Marines got to use the MK25 as well, to get a better understanding of how the system works and performs. Colbert hopes to continue to dive at Lake Anna.

“This dive was a huge success,” he said. “I think this training is giving us more benefit for the effort. If we could do something like this maybe quarterly, we’d be really well served.”

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