With only 8 weeks planning, the day had arrived for a small detachment of divers from 591 Independent Field Squadron RE to deploy to Gibraltar on Ex Finn SapperSoaker 12. The opportunity to deploy arose because 2 Rifles had to cancel their Exped as Op commitments, including support to the Olympics, meant they unable to utilise this AT slot.
The logistics of getting an Expedition off the ground in such a short space of time is no mean feat but we could not let this opportunity go to waste. Getting qualified divers to go is usually not a problem but with the time scale and Op Olympics, only 3 qualified divers could be mustered along with 2 novices. As usual the issue of SADS (Sub Aqua Diving Supervisor) availability needed to be addressed, but the reliable WO2 Andy Payne was at hand and even able to get another from England. This made the total numbers 7, 5 of those needed diving medicals.
With the flights booked, the medicals passed, the risk assessment written and all the other necessary paperwork that’s required, it was time to actually get to Gibraltar and do some diving.
Getting off the plane and soaking up the sun after the miserable summer in the UK was a joy. Meeting the team at JPDU (Joint Physical Development Unit) was next, to sign over all the equipment. As with every diving Exped the first day consisted of shake out dives, getting familiar with the equipment and checking individual’s buoyancy. Bit of a shock for the novice divers going from the heated swimming pool at RAF Aldergrove to full semidry suits with hoods in 21C open water of the Mediterranean, but all coped very well.
After day one the routine was set, up at 7am, collect packed lunches, breakfast, move to dive centre and prepare for the day. Every day was different as the diving in Gibraltar is so diverse, giving wreck, drift and wall dives all within a short transit. During the surface interval we all had something to do whether it be filling air cylinders or studying for exams. Two of the group were moving on to Dive Leader while the novices had to finish their course. After the days diving, it was off to Devils Tower Camp for evening meal and later a few shandys. Quite a busy schedule, if anyone says a diving Exped is a holiday let them come on one, it will be an education.
The diving in Gibraltar is diverse but the wreck diving is the most enjoyable with many sites all within 15 minutes transit time. Even the novice Ocean divers can access these as some sit between 17-20 metres which is their limit. Whether it is wreck, drift or wall diving there is always something to catch your eye.On the last day LCpl Graham Ross met a large Sun fish cruising by, while I was engrossed in a moray eel popping his head in and out of the bow of the Norwegian Trawler, our most popular dive due to the depth and marine life on it.
The stats speak for themselves, a total of 2745 minutes between 6 divers one of which was only there for 5 days due to other commitments. 95 dives completed between the group, 3 dives on some days – it was hard and tiring but also enjoyable.
Thanks must be given to all who supported the Exped in whatever form. Some of the group had recently returned from Op Herrick in Afghanistan and were more than grateful for the opportunity to take part in something which was outside their comfort zone but in a different way. The Ulysses Trust can be assured that the grants they give are used in the best possible way.
Adventure training provides challenging outdoor training for service personnel, involving controlled exposure to risk. It develops rational control of fear, leadership, teamwork, physical fitness and physical courage, among other personal attributes and skills, vital to Operational Capability. Its purpose is to give personnel the confidence to perform outside their individual mental or physical comfort zones, and prepare them to cope with the unexpected.
Once again thanks to the Ulysses Trust for their continued support to the Reservist Community.
SSgt Jim Casper