New Clearance Divers set to graduate from intensive 10-month course

Clearance Divers in training are seen during recent Surface Supplied Breathing Apparatus (SSBA) diving serials at Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) in Esquimalt. FDU(P)

New Clearance Divers set to graduate from intensive 10-month course

By Lt(N) Jake Kresky,
Clearance Diving Officer Course 0020

The nearly year-long Clearance Diver course is known to be one of the most physically and mentally demanding courses offered in the Canadian Armed Forces. S1 VALERIE LECLAIR

“To provide High-Readiness Clearance Diving teams responsible for delivering Mine Countermeasures Diving, Maritime Explosive Ordnance Disposal and in-water maintenance and repair support worldwide on behalf of the CAF.” 

This is the mission statement of Fleet Diving Unit Pacific (FDU(P)); where for 10 months the candidates of Clearance Diver course 0018 and Clearance Diving Officer course 0020 have been pursuing the ultimate goal of becoming qualified Clearance Divers. Canadian Clearance Divers are the diving and underwater demolition experts within the Canadian Armed Forces. They are expected to be proficient in all manner of underwater tasks and have the skills and knowledge to adapt to new challenges. They deploy across Canada and the world in a multitude of dive and demolition focused operations and exercises. They also serve Canadians at home by conducting Explosive Ordnance Disposal within Canada to render safe and dispose of hazardous munitions. 

A Clearance Diver is expected to be physically fit, mentally resilient and fearless in the face of adversity. From the very first day of course candidates are challenged to demonstrate all these qualities, and the intense nature of the course will remain a constant factor throughout. Rigorous and consistent physical training and testing ensures that candidates are in the proper form required to meet the high standards of the course and the trade. In the initial weeks, candidates’ skills are tested and refreshed to ensure everyone is up to the standard attained in their Ship’s Diver and Combat Diver courses in order to build on those existing skills. 

The first new systems candidates get qualified on are the various recompression chambers in service at the unit. The recompression chamber is an essential safety tool used to recompress divers suffering from a dive related injury. This system is also used to test new dive systems and develop the tables used by all CAF divers. During this phase, candidates were qualified to operate multiple chambers, act as event recorder for a recompression treatment, and act as the inside tender to support a patient being treated. Officer candidates were also qualified to supervise treatments and respond to a variety of emergency scenarios. 

Concurrently with the recompression chamber, candidates were trained on the Ultra Lightweight Surface Supplied Dive System. This system allows divers to work for extended periods of time underwater while maintaining communications with the surface. During this phase candidates were introduced to deep diving with decompression on compressed air, operating at approximately 42 meters. Once qualified on this system, it is employed in realistic working scenarios which train candidates in the operation of pneumatic tools underwater – including chainsaws, grinders and jackhammers.

In their next phase, candidates were introduced to the basics of mine identification, recognition and exploitation. Utilizing the Sharkmarine, a portable sonar and underwater navigation tool, candidates learn to locate and identify underwater mines and recover them for exploitation and disposal.

In January, candidates travelled to Gagetown to complete their Conventional Munitions Disposal Basic (CMD-B) and Improvised Explosive Device Assistant (IED-A) courses. On CMD-B candidates learn to identify a wide range of conventional military munitions and how to safely dispose of them using explosives. On IED-A candidates are introduced to the various tools and methods of responding to an improvised explosive device and assisting a qualified operator in neutralizing a device.

After returning to FDU(P), candidates were instructed by Boatswains from the Fleet in the operation of RHIBs and jet boats, as well as rigging for the cranes employed by Yard Dive Tender vessels.

Back on the dive side, candidates began training on the Surface Supplied Breathing Apparatus (SSBA aka “Helmet Diving”). SSBA is used for deep diving up to a maximum depth of 90 meters for salvage, recovery and working dives such as underwater welding. The culmination of this phase is a two-week trip to Brentwood Bay, BC, on board FDU(P)’s two Yard Dive Tenders.

Following SSBA candidates headed to Whirl Bay underwater demolition range in Metchosin, BC. During this phase candidates refreshed their demolition training and employed it in realistic scenarios, conducting underwater demolitions against simulated mine targets.

In the final phase of the course candidates trained at Naval Fleet School Pacific in basic welding and cutting. These skills are then tested in working scenarios to ensure candidates are proficient in these skills underwater.

All of the skills developed on course represent just the surface level of what is expected of a qualified Clearance Diver. Candidates, once qualified and posted to their respective diving units, will continue to refine these skills for the remainder of their careers. 

The Clearance Diver course is unique in the Canadian Armed Forces for its length, intensity and the breadth and depth of skills developed. Those who are successful will be expected to use and employ everything they have learned in real-world scenarios anywhere in the world on short notice. Many candidates will deploy on their first international exercise within months of graduating. The challenge of completing this course is matched only by the reward of joining such a specialized and tight knit trade. As the candidates of CD 0018/CLDO 0020 look forward to completing their 10 months of training and starting their careers as Clearance Divers, they are each and every one of them proud of what they have achieved and cannot wait to get out and start doing the business.

“Strength in Depth.”