Post Written by Petty Officer Second Class Amir Lawal
Coast Guard Dive Locker?? You may be wondering why the Coast Guard has a dive locker or maybe even what it is. Well let me tell you, it’s just about one of the coolest jobs in the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard has two dive lockers, one on the East coast in Portsmouth, VA, and one on the West coast in San Diego, CA. The lockers specialize in diving to support the Coast Guard’s homeland security mission. The Coast Guard dive program actually began previous to World War II when 120 Coast Guardsmen pioneered the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and in fact, was a foundation for the U.S. Navy Seals. After World War II, diving became a collateral duty throughout the Coast Guard and participated in operations on buoy tenders, ice breakers and strike teams. Due to tragic events and the need for advanced homeland security operations, a requirement was revealed for full-time divers with a higher level of training.
On September 4th, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the Coast Guard’s newest dive locker located in Portsmouth, VA. The Regional Dive Locker East (RDLE) has been functional for about a year, the official ribbon cutting was intended to familiarize and mark the official launching date for the unit, which is located at Integrated Support Command (ISC) Portsmouth. The unit’s main mission is homeland security, but it will also be instrumental in providing diving capability for three primary areas: ports and waterways coastal security (PWCS); aids to navigation (ATON); and ship husbandry and repair in remote Polar Regions.
On the eve of the RDLE’s ribbon cutting ceremony, I spoke with one of its members, Petty Officer Second Class Shawn Price, and “picked his brain” about the facility, members and duties of this new unit. He told me that the locker consists of 18 divers and will continue the more than 50 year tradition of the Coast Guard’s dive program. All of the divers attached have had over six months of dive school training (and for some divers even longer than that). I asked him what makes being at a dive locker like this special and he said, “It’s like a brother hood.”
Being a diver has to be one of the most exciting and thrilling jobs in the Coast Guard, as well as one of the most dangerous. If you ask me, it’s a job that a many Guardians wish they could have but it’s definitely not for the faint hearted. One of the things Petty Officer Price told me that stood out is, “dive school is like going to boot camp all over again, but worse.” I also found out that you never know where you might be diving and are often in unfamiliar territory. Just think about the vast differences in weather and coastal environments along the East coast. A diver could literally be diving in ice in the north Atlantic and the next day be diving in the tropical jet stream waters of Southern Florida. When asked what the challenging parts were about the jobs, Petty Officer Price said that the unit must remain prepared and properly trained at all times. Whether it’s rebuilding the facemask or checking air tanks, all jobs are important and vital to completing the assignments safely. When the divers are not called out on assignment, they will continue to train by diving two to three times a week.
As the RDLE opens its doors, we know that this unit will continue to support homeland security and represent the Coast Guard’s dive program in a positive light. As the unit moves forward and continues to complete its vital mission, we wish our shipmates all the best.