HONOLULU, Hawaii – The crystal clear water, steamy heat and swaying palm trees may seem like a tropical distraction for some, but for the Australian Clearance Diving Task Group (AUSCDT), Hawaii is merely another new environment to get the job done. The team comprises of members from the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group, AUSCDT One and AUSCDT Four.
Sixty-nine personnel comprising of divers, support and command staff set up camp in two distinct locations for Exercise Rim-of-the-Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010. The Command element from the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group and AUSCDT Four personnel is situated in a newly constructed tent city inside the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay. AUSCDT One is set up in a smaller tent city at the Mobile Diving Salvage Unit at Hickam Air Force Base, adjacent to Pearl Harbor.
Bringing over the largest-ever contingent of divers to a RIMPAC, Commander of the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group Commodore Scott Craig said that the exercise provided an opportunity for Australia to command a task group. This group comprises of approximately 190 personnel from five nations and their specialist equipment.
The exercise proved Australia’s capability to command a multi-national task group, as well as providing the opportunity to refine and improve tactics, techniques and procedures utilised in very shallow water mine countermeasures (VSWMCM), underwater battle damage repair (UBDR) and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).
“The task group in Kaneohe Bay effectively employed all personnel and sensors to achieve the VSWMCM aims, thus proving Australia’s capability to assume command of a large and complex force, while the contingent at Hickam proved our ability in the UBDR and EOD disciplines,” Commodore Craig said.
Commodore Craig explained that RIMPAC was a significant training exercise which provided Australian divers with a great opportunity to build relationships with participating nations.
“Divers are similar across the world; very motivated and professional individuals always striving to improve their skills and knowledge. The five nations formed excellent relationships that are sure to benefit operations in the future with the Australians taking away many valuable lessons,” he said.
At Hickam, approximately 30 divers from AUSCDT One formed part of a task group comprising of three sub-units who worked alongside Canadians, US divers and US Coast Guard in a range of activities. These activities included: salvage work on a sunken tug; mine counter measures diving involving raising and towing mines ashore; and practicing advanced bomb disposal procedures.
Commanding Officer of AUSCDT One, Lieutenant Commodore Chris White said that RIMPAC has provided his team with the chance to refine skills, benchmark their standards against other participating nations and develop a more cohesive working relationship in possible operational situations.
“RIMPAC’s a really great opportunity for us as Australians to come across and benchmark what we’re doing across our whole bunch of skill sets against our coalition partners,” he said.
“With that comes the advantage of developing that interoperability and synergy between us and our coalition partners. If we do go and conduct operations we’re far better placed; we know who we’re going to do our business with and how we’re going to do our business.”
Drawing on Oahu’s geographical location, the divers have been able to experience some truly unique experiences including rare behind the scenes tours and diving on the former USS Missouri – an impressive warship now a museum at Pearl Harbour.