Navy divers use Portage Quarry for deep sea training
Sentinel Staff Writer
You wouldn't think
of Wood County as a spot to train deep sea divers.
But a group of Navy
Reserve divers have found a prime spot to hone their underwater skills — a
deep water quarry nestled amid the corn and beans fields just south of
For more than a
decade members of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two, Detachment 409,
based in Cleveland, have traveled once a year to Portage Quarry Recreation
Club south of Bowling Green for a weekend of dive training.
members of the unit, along with a few active duty Navy divers from
Virginia, spent this past weekend submerged in this gaping, flooded hole,
70-feet deep in places, which they say provides an ideal training
"This is a
beautiful quarry," said the unit's commander, CDR James Rodes Jr., who
works full-time as a Cleveland police detective when he's not diving for
He said the unit
could train off the shore of Lake Erie near Cleveland. But that would
require a 10 to 12 mile jaunt off the coast to find depths with good
getting deeper dives in a better controlled environment," he explained.
BMCS Jim Mariano, a
stocky 38-year-old active duty "Master Diver" who traveled from the east
coast of Virginia to observe and critique the weekend training, called the
local quarry a "perfect" diving environment.
"You've got good
depth and good visibility here," Mariano said as two more yellow-helmeted
divers got ready to submerge. "It's a perfect training location."
Quarry owner Jeff
Rice, a military veteran himself whose son is currently serving in the
Army in Iraq, is happy to help the reservists.
"Through the years
we've got to the point where we know these guys individually," Rice said.
"They're a great group and we support them, as we do all our military
Although Rodes and
the other divers in his unit are "reservists," they're regularly called
upon by the Navy for real-world missions.
"For only getting
together one weekend a month, these guys do really well together,"
He said his active
duty unit at the Naval base in Little Creek, Va., which oversees reserve
units like Detachment. 409 and often works side-by-side with them, knows
the reservists can be ready to go at a moment's notice. "They're really
Some examples of
real-world missions include salvage recovery dives following the Space
Shuttle Columbia crash in February, when parts of the shuttle plunged into
Toledo Bend Reservoir in East Texas.
Divers from this
unit also helped raise parts of the U.S.S. Monitor, the Civil War ironclad
ship found off the coast of North Carolina.
And they've handled
more grisly jobs, like recovering debris and bodies from the Atlantic
Ocean several years ago when TWA Flight 800 went down off the coast of New
The motivation and
esprit of the diving unit tends to be at a higher level than your typical
Naval Reserve unit, according to Rodes.
"I've got guys
driving eight hours (to weekend training) every month just because they
want to stay a Navy diver," he said.
His unit includes
divers from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
The esprit shows
itself in other ways. A number of the divers sported tattoos on their left
calf, a large picture of a Mark V diving helmet, the old heavy brass and
copper deep sea helmets most civilians would recognize from movies like
"Men of Honor."
But deep sea diving
isn't just a man's underwater world. New lighter equipment, like the
yellow fiberglass helmets they now wear, means that Navy diving is open to
women as well as men.
LTJG Sara Olsen, a
25-year- old active duty diver and Mariano's operations officer, said the
Navy needs motivated and physically fit women and
men to put on the helmet and take the plunge.
looking for someone who's willing to work," Olsen said.
requirements alone are more stringent than the regular Navy. Divers must
be able to withstand long periods of time submerged at depths of 60 feet
or more. You also must be able to perform various underwater tasks, like
welding and moving heavy equipment.
biggest requirement seems to be a love of diving and using the most
"We get paid to
dive all over the world," said Rodes. "It's great."
"There's nothing like going to work and loving what you do."