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Members of the 352nd Special Operations Group sit on the dock at the Stoney Cove diving center, where the airmen spent the day scuba training. While the members of the 352nd specialize in air operations, they also must maintain skills for land operations. Scuba training could be necessary for search and rescue missions.

Members of the 352nd Special Operations Group sit on the dock at the Stoney Cove diving center, where the airmen spent the day scuba training. While the members of the 352nd specialize in air operations, they also must maintain skills for land operations. Scuba training could be necessary for search and rescue missions. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)

Members of the 352nd Special Operations Group sit on the dock at the Stoney Cove diving center, where the airmen spent the day scuba training. While the members of the 352nd specialize in air operations, they also must maintain skills for land operations. Scuba training could be necessary for search and rescue missions.

Members of the 352nd Special Operations Group sit on the dock at the Stoney Cove diving center, where the airmen spent the day scuba training. While the members of the 352nd specialize in air operations, they also must maintain skills for land operations. Scuba training could be necessary for search and rescue missions. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)

Tech. Sgt. Robert Disney instructs a member of the 352nd as Senior Master Sgt. Mickey Wright, right, listens. Leicestershire’s Stoney Cove, with 13 acres of clear water, is largely regarded as the country’s top inland diving facility.

Tech. Sgt. Robert Disney instructs a member of the 352nd as Senior Master Sgt. Mickey Wright, right, listens. Leicestershire’s Stoney Cove, with 13 acres of clear water, is largely regarded as the country’s top inland diving facility. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)

Airman 1st Class Charles Frasier, left, adjusts the diving apparatus of Maj. James Johnson as the two diving partners prepare for scuba training at the Stoney Cove diving center.

Airman 1st Class Charles Frasier, left, adjusts the diving apparatus of Maj. James Johnson as the two diving partners prepare for scuba training at the Stoney Cove diving center. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)

SAPCOTE — Andrew Imm has an unusual question to answer. Is it safe to scuba and sky dive in the same 24 hours?

For Imm, a 40-year-old retired naval chief warrant officer 3, the dilemma is not academic.

Roughly 24 hours after he supervises a controlled scuba training exercise with about a dozen Air Force special operations airmen, the same members of the 352nd Special Operations Group will leap from a C-130.

Ultimately, Imm opts for a conservative dive of no more than 30 feet deep to decrease the pressurization factor that can lead to problems during the next day’s jump.

“This is really new territory for me to combine these two training exercises in such a short time span, and we always want to exercise safety upfront,” Imm said. “I believe it’s doable, we just have to do it right.”

A group of RAF Mildenhall-based special operations pararescuemen and combat controllers recently convoyed across central England to a former quarry that has been turned into the United Kingdom’s largest diving center for an afternoon of instruction and training.

Leicestershire’s Stoney Cove diving facility is largely regarded as the country’s top inland diving facility with 13 acres of clear water and depths ranging from a few feet to a little more than 100 for expert divers.

The former quarry also features ship, airplane and bus wreckage for divers to simulate open-ocean exploration or underwater search and rescue operations.

On the day of the 352nd’s training visit, the complex was buzzing with diving enthusiasts from across the country as well as a British police search and rescue team also training.

Imm worked alongside Tech. Sgt. Robert Disney, 29, of Bethany, Ill., to ensure safety during the dive. The water temperature was a refreshing 55 degrees Fahrenheit, prompting the airmen to wear wet suits, and two fortunate divers to wear dry suits.

“Compared to jumping, this is a very high-impact operation. This is what I would call more of a thinker’s task because with parachuting there are so many fail-safes put into place to help keep you safe,” Disney said. “But in diving, in the space of 30 feet you can kill somebody.”

Senior Master Sgt. Mickey Wright said the troops aren’t bothered by the water temperature.

“Because we are European-based, we are cold water ready,” Wright said. “We have the capability with our equipment to function in this cold water.”

While the members of the 352nd specialize in air operations, they also must maintain skills for land operations. Scuba training could be applied in both search and rescue missions involving downed aircraft as well as waterway infiltrations.

Two years ago an Air Force special operations squad had to don the scuba gear in Iraq to retrieve sensitive material from a helicopter that had gone down in the Tigris River.

Maj. James Johnson, who commands the 321st Special Tactics Squadron, said the unit’s high mission tempo translates into fewer opportunities to perform water training than they would prefer.

“Due to all we are doing all over the world, we aren’t able to do as much of this as we would like, so this was a good opportunity for us,” he said. “Even though it’s not a mission priority, it’s still important for us to remain proficient. It’s one of those [special operations forces] truths that you can’t create the forces after a crisis emerges.”


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