Army divers complete underwater salvage exercise

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Divers with the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, 130th Engineer Brigade, recently completed their annual salvage exercise, May 9, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam that focused on salvage and construction tasks that are common to the detachment.

The SALVEX is important, because it allows the unit to validate and train collectively on salvage and construction tasks that are critical in an event that the team is called to remove an obstruction from a navigable waterway.

“An example would be if a sailboat sank in a shipping channel,” said Capt. Robert Meyer, 7th Engineer Dive Detachment commander. “In this scenario, our team would be required to lift and remove the sunken sailboat to permit boat traffic to continue unimpeded.”

The unit has the ability to salvage up to 72,000 pounds with lift bags, and even more if using pumping or dewatering techniques, he continued.

The multi-phase underwater salvage operation incorporated underwater patching, lifting, pumping, and general engineering tasks, Meyer said. For this specific SALVEX, the detachment focused on the proper use of inflatable lift bags as well as the application of internal and external patches to seal the project.

“Once the project is free of large holes, divers pump air from a large air compressor into the project, displacing the water inside,” he said. “When done correctly, the object will float to the surface allowing it to be removed.”

All of the Soldiers received adequate training on patch building, salvage techniques, and dive time to work on the project.

“I was able to learn a variety of carpentry skills from our senior salvage divers that were essential to building the correct internal and external patches,” said Spc. Billy Ray Emory, a second class diver with the detachment. “Speaking for the younger divers, we were able to explore various techniques to bring lost items up from the deep. This training exercise is vital to divers at every level. Being able to salvage items in the water is a valuable skill.”

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