Today marks the Birthday of two of Navy Divings major commands, MDSU TWO and SWRMC.
- MDSU TWO -
October 1, 1966 Harbor Clearance Unit TWO commissioned at the Navy Amphibious Base Little Creek, VA.
Patterned after World War II mobile salvage units, HCU TWO consolidated the diving resources of the Atlantic fleet in direct support of combat operations through the clearance of harbors and waterways during the Vietnam War. Along with her sister command (HCU 1), HCU 2 salvaged hundreds of small craft, barges, and downed aircraft; refloated many stranded U. S. Military and merchant vessels; cleared obstructed piers, shipping channels, and bridges; and performed numerous underwater repairs to ships operating in the combat zone.
The command officially became Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit TWO in February of 1982, reflecting the new focus on salvage operations and specialized diving missions. Over the years, MDSU TWO earned the title of "Experts in Salvage" through participation in numerous salvage/recovery operations, harbor clearance, humanitarian operations and battle damage assessment and repair.
The heavy salvage capabilities of MDSU TWO have been demonstrated during such salvage operations as; TWA 800, Swiss Air Flight 111, Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia and the salvage of USS MONITOR's steam engine, turret, eleven-inch Dahlgren guns and crew remains. MDSU TWO has been involved in quick response battle damage assessment and repair on such vessels as: USS La MOURE COUNTY (LST 1194) and USS COLE (DDG 67). They have also been involved in many humanitarian missions such as Minneapolis Minnesota bridge collapse and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Contributions during the GWOT have included emergent taskings such as the salvage of a SH-60 helicopter in 270 feet of water in the Red Sea and deployments to the Persian Gulf for Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.
MDSU TWO continues to support current and future fleet requirements. The command supports five Mobile Diving and Salvage Detachments (MDSDs), an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) Detachment and a Side Scan Sonar team as well as one shore detachment in Norfolk, Virginia. Detachments are trained and equipped with fly-away diving systems and recompression chambers to support the Atlantic Fleet with combat salvage, expeditionary harbor clearance and homeland defense operations.
- SWRMC -
In 1979 COMNAVSURFPAC created a San Diego based Diver Consolidation plan as a pilot program to determine if consolidation of Navy Divers would better effect utilization of diving assets and increase cost savings to the fleet. The first year of the program turned out to be a success and in August of 1980, the unit officially was commissioned as Harbor Clearance Unit One Detachment (HCU ONE DET). The Unit's name was later changed to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One Detachment (MDSU ONE DET), when HCU-1 in Hawaii changed its name to MDSU ONE. This should not to be confused with the current MDSU ONE Det ONE Detachment currently in San Diego that would not be reestablished until years later when the Navy saw a need for an asset focused on Salvage/Harbor Clearance on the west coast of the U.S.
The combination of man power and technical expertise at MDSU ONE DET resulted in the development of underwater work procedures for different jobs and classes of ships focusing on UWSH procedures but including some Salvage as well. In addition, MOBDIVSALU ONE DET personnel conducted training aimed at the certification of the Navy's first underwater welders. On October 1, 1986 MOBDIVSALU ONE DET was officially renamed Consolidated Divers Unit (CDU). The command's focus became underwater ships husbandry with the transfer of the salvage portion of the command's mission to MDSU ONE in Hawaii. CDU was again renamed the South West Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC) Dive Locker on May 22, 2002 and remains one of the Navy's premier underwater ships husbandry assets. Since its inception SWRMC has completed underwater repairs on ships and submarines from bow to stern. They operate not only in the southern California area, but can also conduct fly-away emergent ship/sub repairs. SWRMC also serves at the southwest regions emergent hyperbaric medical facility for all branches of the military. These operations expedite getting the Navy's sea assets back at sea, saving the Navy countless dollars and time in dry-docking costs.
Note: Anyone who has ever walked through the SWRMC Dive Locker has seen the life-sized statue of a diver in full gear, riding atop a 14 foot shark holding its dorsal fin and pointing forward with his other hand. While many have seen this statue, few know the history behind it. The statue was constructed at the Underwater Swim School in Key West, FL by Chief Yeoman Dow Byers. YNC Byers was a UDT Diver who served as an instructor and worked in the carpentry shop. In 1964, he came up with the idea to make a life-sized statue of the school-house's logo - a diver riding a shark. The shark was designed bearing the characteristics of a few sharks; the fine-tooth, mako, sand and nurse shark - and is a female. To create the shark, he shaped pieces of white pine into a skeleton and covered it with fiberglass. The diver was a little trickier. Chief Byers envisioned the diver being tall and thin and searched several dive school classes until settling on one of the instructors to be the model. BM1 Caltenback (a First Class Diver) stood 5'10" and weighed about 150lbs at the time. Byers encased Caltenback in a full body cast from the neck down for four hours during which he protested a great deal and moved not an inch. The result was a life-sized figure of a SCUBA Diver in full gear, astride a 14 foot shark with the words "U.S. Navy School, Underwater Swimmers" in large red letters. Soon after Dow Byers completed the statue, it was displayed at the Monroe County Fair where it won first place ribbons. U.S. Naval School Underwater Swimmers, Key West, Florida, welcomed its first class in 1954 and trained over 6000 divers before officially closing it doors in l973. The statue was then transferred to Navy Dive School, Coronado where it stayed until 1993 when it was transferred once more to CDU (which eventually became SWRMC) where it is proudly displayed to this day.
For more info about the U.S. Naval School Underwater Swimmers, Key West, FL check out http://www.uwss.org/