DANA LANDING MARINA, Calif. -- The smell of sea salt and the roar of engines fills the senses as three rigid-hulled inflatable boats cut through the water off the coast of California.
With Sea World in the background, the three boats slow to a stop in the calm, dark waters of the Pacific Ocean. Eight figures geared for diving systematically run through their final checklists before rolling off the boats into the water.
Once below the surface of the cool winter currents, the Marines with Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, begin their search efforts for Naval Oceans Systems Center tower on Jan. 28, 2016, which had been sunk by a large storm wave in 1988.
“The Marines are advancing in underwater search capability,” said Capt. Scott Williams, company commander assigned to Co. A, 1st Recon Bn, 1st Mar. Div. “Last quarter we started the training but today we’re going out into the open water.”
Operating a location outside of the traditional training areas near Camp Pendleton gave the Marines a fresh look at the combat dives.
“The boat basin on Camp Pendleton gives about 20 feet for the Marines to work with,” added Williams. “But out here we can go much deeper, 50-80 feet.”
Williams also added that it’s important the Marines are subjected to different environments then those found on Camp Pendleton to bolster their confidence in unknown territories to prepare them for the upcoming deployment.
“We’re going on the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit this fall,” Williams explained. “If something falls in the water, whether it’s a weapon or piece of gear, the Marine Air Ground Task Force may need us to retrieve it, being the only divers organic to the MEU.”
To be eligible to partake in the training, the Marines are required to attend the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida, where they learn the basics of diving and military tactics below the surface of the water.
“At the school Marines get their basic dive qualification,” Williams said. “They don’t have the Search capability until we put a team together and go through a package like this.”
The Marines had a helping hand from their Navy partners who transported them to the search location in the RHIBs.
“The MEU is the picture of the Navy/Marine Corps team,” Williams said. “We’re constantly working together.”
1st Recon remains ready for any mission by training its Marines for combat in every environment, thereby remaining relevant and effective on today’s battlefields.