2nd Lt. Lauren Looper
65th Eng. Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
PEARL HARBOR — 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, so diving at the memorial is a rare privilege given only on special circumstances and only to the most experienced of divers.
To dive at the USS Arizona Memorial, here, was an honor for the 7th Dive Detachment, 65th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, 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, 65th Eng. Bn., 130th Eng. Bde., 8th TSC.
The dive served as the culminating event for the detachment’s sergeant’s time training.
The days leading up to the dive consisted of classes and inspections on 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 benefited the National Parks Service and the 7th Dive Det. 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 unit’s young divers benefit from this type of training. Army divers inspect and clean watercraft propellers and hulls, patch damaged watercraft hulls and salvage equipment. They also help with underwater construction of piers and harbor facilities, and survey rivers, beaches and harbors for underwater obstacles.
Young Army divers learn how to weld, cut and use power tools and explosives underwater — skills that they use on underwater missions such as the USS Arizona. Skills are then mastered through mentoring by first class divers and master divers.
“We’ll send one experienced diver down and one new diver down,” said Sgt. 1st Class Beau Woodcox, master diver and first sergeant, 7th Dive Det. “(The new diver’s) getting training the whole time we’re gathering good information for the park service. (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.”
“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, first class diver, 7th Dive Det. “It was pretty cool just to get to dive the Arizona.”
“The 7th Dive Team is an amazing unit that does just about everything we do on land, underwater,” Place said. “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.”