CAMP LENHOFF, Timor-Leste — Last month, nine Seabee divers from Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 arrived in Timor-Leste via C-130, tired and jet lagged from a painful four days of flying. They were there to perform hydrographic and side-scan surveys of various sites in support of a Pacific Command bilateral exercise. Additionally, they were tasked with evaluating a future site for Timor-Leste’s Maritime Security Force Headquarters and training the country’s fledgling dive force.
With support from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, the divers hit the ground running, offloading five pallets of dive and geotechnical gear for transport to Camp Lenhoff.
Equipment was quickly prepped and loaded onto trucks so the divers could start hydrographic surveys of Manatutu Beach, a U.S. amphibious landing zone. Data from hydrographic and side scan surveys would give a 3-D picture of the ocean floor, identifying any potential hazards to navigation that could damage amphibious craft. By the time they were finished, survey technicians had covered more than 2 square kilometers of ocean floor.
After that, the focus turned to Dili harbor, the main shipping port in Timor-Leste. Working with the United Nations maritime advisor, the Seabees would gather comprehensive data to develop a strategic plan for the development of a maritime security headquarters. This included detailed topographic, hydrographic and side scan surveys, along with soil data.
Divers were faced with myriad obstacles that come with operating in a developing country. They spent seven days working side-by-side with the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) Maritime Security Force collecting mountains of data, including side scan imagery of two World War II-era vessels. All the information was recorded in a comprehensive report for further review by engineers.
Timor-Leste has a robust military that includes a small contingent of divers. Members of UCT-2 provided a day of classroom training that encompassed basic diving theory, including physics, physiology and recompression chamber operation. The seven untried PNTL divers gained valuable information.
“We understand that it takes years of training to properly absorb the information we taught,” said Engineering Aide Chief Blair Mercado, officer in charge of the Seabee divers. “However, the main point we wanted to drive home is that diving is inherently dangerous, and no matter how much you think you know, you’re always learning.”
At the end of the day, the U.S. and Timorese divers shared a meal and some sea stories, making it a very successful event.
The work in Timor-Leste was part of a six-month deployment across the Pacific that took the divers from Kauai to Japan to the South Pacific and Naval Region Northwest.
UCT-2 provides underwater sconstruction, inspection, repair and maintenance to ocean facilities for Navy, Marine Corps and Joint Forces engaged in military operations.