Little Creek Seabee divers forge ties with Tunisian Navy counterparts
NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — A team of Little Creek-based Navy Seabee divers is back from a three-week mission in Tunisia — the first joint operation with Tunisian divers since before the Arab Spring brought democracy to that North African nation.
The dozen sailors from Underwater Construction Team One worked with 12 Tunisian Navy divers, introducing them to operating with diving gear supplied from the surface as well as underwater welding and metal-cutting.
The divers also drilled on the underwater surveying and pier inspections necessary when assessing the condition of ports for naval operations.
The Little Creek divers are Navy Expeditionary Combat Force Seabees who build, repair and maintain ports, ocean facilities and other underwater systems.
For the U.S. divers, working with the Tunisians was a way to hone diving techniques and to develop skills as instructors, since some members of the group may return to Navy Diving Salvage Training Center as dive school instructors in the future, said Lt. j.g. William Pelger, the officer in charge.
“These types of exercises are instrumental for improving maritime security along the North African coastline,” Pelger said. “It was a pleasure to work side by side building important maritime partnerships while sharing best practices, tactics, and diving techniques and procedures.”
This mission also helped a Navy collaboration with partners in the Mediterranean, including Tunisia, to improve maritime security along the North African coast, he said.
The port assessments that the Little Creek and Tunisian divers worked on together collected engineering data and information about the condition and capabilities of facilities that will help with future waterfront construction, repair and maintenance plans.
The Little Creek team also had a chance to enjoy traditional Tunisian dishes, including lamb with couscous, and visited the site of ancient Carthage and the Medina of Tunis — a UNESCO World Heritage site that includes more than 700 monuments, historic buildings and mosques.
“While language was somewhat of a barrier we were always able to share stories and one of the English speaking Tunisians would help translate along with showing them pictures to help better understand,” Pelger said.
“We also made many memories and friends that we will never forget,” he said. “The kindness and welcoming nature of the Tunisians will live in our hearts forever ... this dive engagement opens the door for potential future engagements and operations with between our two countries.”
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