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Photo by Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

2nd Force Recon Marines tackle the New River

28 Jul 2005 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

Marines from 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force, conducted dive training here July 28 to maintain proficiency at their unique insertion techniques. The nature of the work assigned to a Marine with the 2nd Force Recon means his gear, procedures and mindset differs vastly from that of the average diver.

Staff Sgt. Mitchell W. Rollins, a team leader with the force, explained what makes recon amphibious insertion unlike any other.

“Unlike sport diving, this is strenuous,” said Rollins, “We don’t use (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) gear because every time you breathe, bubbles rise to the surface, so someone could detect the diver as he comes in.”

“We use a closed-circuit loop,” he continued. “You have to force breathing in and out because there’s no pressure pushing air into your mouth.”

A closed circuit loop makes breathing more difficult for the diver, but eliminates the possibility of detection by recycling air.

The diver may also have other limitations that make recon diving a demanding endeavor. Limited visibility is almost a guarantee since most operations happen at night, and the water may not be clear, he added.

“It’s like running a marathon with a gas mask and a blindfold on,” said a Marine after he completed his first of two dives, each approximately 1000 meters in distance.

“I had to hold my compass right in front of my face to be able to see it,” said one of the divers after emerging from the muddy water of the New River.

In a real world contingency, recon Marines would be dropped into the water far enough from their objective that they could not be seen from land. From there, they use an underwater compass to guide them to their objective, where they collect information.

“It’s similar to land navigation,” said another Marine. “When you jump in the water, you’ll probably be disoriented right away, so you have to follow your azimuth.”

“Recon units are the only units in the Marine Corps utilize this method of insertion,” said Rollins.

Force puts in long hours in the name of collecting information. While not in a deployed status, they must constantly maintain training necessary to keep up with the high operational tempo, said Rollins.

“They give up a lot to do this,” he said, “there are no breaks.”

“The only way we’re going to win the Global War on Terrorism is by chipping away at terrorist cells.  We do that by taking the fight to the enemy by whatever means necessary.” he said.