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A Navy diver holds on to the Zodiac and gets instruction from fellow Underwater Construction Team TWO members while a Filipino service member checks his gear before they dive to 20 feet.
A Navy diver holds on to the Zodiac and gets instruction from fellow Underwater Construction Team TWO members while a Filipino service member checks his gear before they dive to 20 feet. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

MARINE BASE TERNATE, Republic of the Philippines — Construction can be a risky business, but when that construction is taking place more than 100 feet below the ocean surface, it takes the danger to a deeper level.

The U.S. Navy’s Underwater Construction Team Two traveled from its home base of Port Hueneme, Calif., to share its knowledge of working underwater with the Armed Forces Philippines Force Recon marines and navy Special Warfare Group personnel at the Force Recon base in Ternate. The Seabees are spending the entire two weeks of Exercise Balikatan 2004 training the AFP servicemembers here.

First order of business, said Petty Officer Michael Jenkins, a steel worker and master diver: making AFP members comfortable with their gear. That’s “the whole thing with being in the water,” said Jenkins, who also is a Seabee combat warfare specialist. “That’s what we want to do … make them comfortable with their gear.”

The AFP members first were given classes in basic scuba, or self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The Philippine trainees were plunked into a pressurized chamber to accustom their bodies to being in 30 feet of water, Jenkins said.

The first training dives, in just 20 feet of water, were solely for indoctrination, Jenkins said. One AFP diver and one U.S. diver dived together to ensure the Filipino members were comfortable.

Petty Officer 1st Class Wayne Perrault, a team builder, said the AFP divers have little experience but were excited to learn.

“They did fairly well,” said Perrault, who’s also a Seabee combat warfare specialist. “They are smart and motivated, and they really wanted to do well.”

The Seabees also are teaching the AFP divers the fine art of deep-sea diving, Jenkins said. By traveling up to 190 feet below the surface, the team can perform underwater construction and salvage operations — in which the AFP members are poorly versed. However, for the training, the U.S. divers are taking their counterparts down just 50 feet.

“We need new techniques in diving, especially deep sea,” said Philippine marine Maj. Antonio Rosario, operations officer for Force Recon operations officer. “Our divers lack equipment, and we need the training the U.S. Navy can teach us.

“The big benefit is training with the new equipment,” he said, “using their equipment.”

While the U.S. divers are teaching their counterparts valuable underwater skills, the AFP Recon marines are sharing their land knowledge with UCT-Two, according to Executive Officer Lt. Greg Miller.

“We’re going to learn tactical skills from them while we teach them about diving,” Miller said. Miller said the other advantage of the training is the “mobilization and operating in a field environment.”

Jenkins said while there, the U.S. divers also would take part in some underwater demolitions to clear a water hazard in the area and a few surface demolitions also.

“The whole idea of the exercise is building relations and cross-training,” Jenkins said. “But it also give us a chance to exercise all our equipment and standards.”

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