Monday, September 7, 2015

Evaluating a Dive Team

On April 11, 2015, I was ordered to be an evaluator for a training exercise during the annual drill of TMAR, the Texas Maritime Regiment of the Texas State Guard. It so happens that I am a petty officer third class in TMAR, but that was not necessary. What was important was my understanding of the Incident Command Structure.

I am assigned to TXSG headquarters as a technical writer and a trainer for WebEOC, the virtual emergency operations center. When I enlisted on November 22, 2014, I brought with me several years of experience as a trainer and instructor in adult education. 
 Whether a tender is on hand at the moment or not,
every diver has help getting geared up. 
The divers form a close community. They have worked together before. They know their craft. To become a diver, you first serve an apprenticeship as a dive tender. The tenders themselves typically are divers, also, but not certified for rescue operations.
Two boats supported the divers and their boat.
Boat operations were also a training exercise.
The training scenario was complex. An armed robbery had gone wrong. The criminals had taken two hostages, a woman and her child. In the ensuing chase, they lost control of their vehicle and it went into a lake. Ground search and rescue concentrated on the shoreline. The dive team used sonar and side-looking radar to locate the vehicle. 

Having found it, they attached inflatable bouys and towed it to the boat launch ramp where it was brought out of the water. At the same time, the "bodies" (dummies, of course) were located and transported to shore.
At the end of the rope,
the diver is attaching floatation buoys.
When the diver pulls the trigger on the air bottles,
the car will rise - immediately, not gradually.
The diver must be pulled clear.
Working closely, the divers and the boat crews were in constant contact, both by radio and by open verbal communication. Nothing happened until everyone was clear and ready.

Meanwhile, the two patrol boats circled the area, keeping pleasure boaters away from the crime scene.  

"I think the engine's flooded."
I kept a running chronology, noting the hour and minutes for every significant action. Divers were taken to the scene. Some were exchanged. Some equipment was replaced. The car had to be located and identified. The bodies were extracted and taken to shore. The vehicle was secured, towed, and extracted. I also noted radio calls to the incident commander on shore and instructions and other information that was exchanged.  The entire exercise took about three and a half hours.


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