Diving in the Deep; Saturation Divers Train in Panama City

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Plane crashes and other catastrophes more often than not require extensive search and recovery.
From a military standpoint that mission is a specialized one that requires a very special group of divers.

The Flyaway Saturation Dive System at the Naval Surface Warfare Center is one of a kind.
The complex system is rarely duplicated and takes days to put together.

“Typically these types of systems are used out in the Gulf or the North Sea for oil field support,” said Paul McMurtrie, the Saturation Diving System Program Manager. “This is one of the few systems of its type that’s used specifically for deep ocean salvage.”

Salvage in the event of the unexpected when the call could mean anything from a submarine recovery to airplane crashes both civilian and military.

“To help recover the black box, to help learn why the plane crashed, and to be able to prevent that in the future,” said McMurtrie.

Retired Master Diver Paul McMurtrie hand picks divers to participate in the program from across the country.

“These divers go through a lot of training, which is unique now to Navy divers,” he said. “These guys not only need to know how to be saturation divers and lock out of diving bell down to 1,000 feet, they also have to know how to maintain and operate a highly complex saturation diving system.”

“You know it’s a special community, it’s a smaller community,” said CM2 John Monahan, a Saturation Diver. “Not a lot of people get to do it whether they’re military or civilian. So being part of the SAT community is very unique.” 

“We’re training our divers in diver bell lock out procedures and preparing them for a summer mission,” said McMurtrie.

And NSA Panama City serves as a great location for that preparation as the best divers in the world come here to train. 

“We may go a number of years where we are training,” said McMurtrie. “But, when the call goes out and we are really needed the Navy wants us to be here.”

Forty different divers from all over the United States participated in the training at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

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