Exercise Finn Sappersoaker 14 was a sub aqua diving expedition to Gibraltar from 30th April – 11th May taken up by members of 591 Independent Field Squadron Royal Engineers from Northern Ireland.
The expedition started off with a very rough overnight stay in Gatwick terminal due to Easyjet changing their flight times to Gibraltar to early o’clock on Monday morning, if only there was a direct flight to Gibraltar from Belfast.
The 7 strong team was led by a few individuals that had been to Gibraltar before, myself included, with 3 novice divers in tow not knowing what to expect. The original numbers for the trip was 11 but due to commitments we lost a few at the last minute, their loss our gain as there would be more room now on the boats.
As with all diving Expeditions day one consisted of kit checks with a few briefs from the team at the Joint Physical Development Unit at Gun Wharf, Gibraltar letting us know of any issues in the during our time there. Never any time to get into the water on day one here with all the usual admin to do but it gives the team a good footing to carry on from here on in.
With a 7 seater bus at our disposal driven by Sat Nev (Sapper Neville Ferguson) we were good to go and totally self-sufficient and headed of from the accommodation in Devils Tower camp straight after breakfast to Gun Wharf where the Adventure training centre is located.
Day 2 was a familiarisation/shakeout dive with the novices getting to grips with the different equipment and the colder water. Having done their training in the comfort of a heated pool it was a bit of a shock for some, average sea temp was around 15-16 degrees.
The trip then took on the usual routine of breakfast, kit check, boat check, dive brief, then on the water for 9-9.30 for most days. Back for lunch then same again in the afternoon. Any lessons that were required happened as and when they were needed. We were lucky enough, or not depending on the point of view, that a few thunder storms kept us of the water and we were able to crack on with the lessons during these.
After day 4 the novices had sat their Ocean Diver exams with all passing and now newly qualified divers, only SSM Dave now studying for his Sports Diver and his practical to do. Everyone needed a 24hr period of time out and the SADS suggested Friday afternoon and Saturday morning with all being on the water by 1pm on the Saturday again. It was a well-deserved rest as the first few days are quite tiring on those who have never experienced the rigors of diving. Not a physical sport but tiring with the body experiencing something new.
Week 2 was a more relaxed time with all qualified now except Dave who had still his written exam to do for Sports Diver, a few late nights studying? The routine was set and everyone chipping in without prompting now. A great team was working well which is one thing that adventure training brings out in people as well as working outside their comfort zones and realising that they can perform new and diverse skills.
The stats speak for themselves, 2693 diving minutes with a total of 105 dives between the group. Doesn’t sound a lot but with the lessons and some individuals having ear problems I feel that is good figure considering the circumstances.
Thanks must be given to all who supported the Exped in whatever form.. The Ulysses Trust can be assured that the grants they give are used in the best possible way.
My personal thanks to the Ulysses Trust and all the support they give to the Army Reserves, keep up the great work.
SSgt Jim Clasper