U.S. Navy Divers Sail Aboard Korean Ship in SALVEX 2017

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U.S. and South Korean navy diving and salvage experts participate in the first bilateral diver training exercise on ROK ship Tong Yeong, during Salvage Exercise Korea 2017 in Chinhae, South Korea, March 22, 2017. Navy photo by Seaman Wesley J. Breedlove

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By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Micah Blechner

Logistics Group Western Pacific

CHINHAE, South Korea, March 30, 2017 — U.S. and South Korean navy diving and salvage experts wrapped up nearly two weeks of advanced training today as Salvage Exercise Korea 2017 drew to a close.

The bilateral exercise began March 21 and featured joint diving and salvage operations, both in port and at sea. During the underway phase, U.S Navy divers assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 embarked on the salvage ship ROKS Tong Yeong alongside their Korean navy counterparts, a first for this annual exercise.

The training focused on combined diving and salvage operations and subject matter expert exchanges. Divers from both navies also operated together under complex, realistic training scenarios in waters near the Korean peninsula. These evolutions exemplified the merits of diving and salvage interoperability between the U.S. and South Korean navies.

“SALVEX enables our divers to become familiar with each other’s equipment and capabilities; making it easier for us to work together in the future if a real world contingency operation were to happen,” said Navy Master Chief Joshua Dumke, a master diver.

SALVEX 2017 marks the 33rd year of the bilateral exercise, which dates back to 1985. The longstanding exchange has fostered supreme trust and deepened cooperation between the two navies.

Using Korean Systems

“We have a waiver to dive with Korean navy systems,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Emge, the diving and salvage officer for Task Force 73. “This is a significant milestone; it gives us the ability to deploy divers with limited amounts of gear and perform interoperable dive operations with our partners.”

Emge said the complexity and the tangible value of the training scenarios get better each year due to the planning, teamwork, and innovation of Sailors from both nations.”

“This exercise allows both navies to enhance our diving and salvage capabilities in a very meaningful way,” Emge said. “Our partnership with [South Korean] navy divers has been a huge success.”

SALVEX Korea 2017 is part of Exercise Foal Eagle — an umbrella of regularly-scheduled, annual exercises that are the culmination of many months of planning and based on realistic training scenarios. The naval portion of the Foal Eagle exercises take place in international waters around South Korea and features a full spectrum of maritime operations.

Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 is a combat-ready, expeditionary, rapidly deployable force with capabilities to conduct harbor clearance, salvage, underwater search and recovery and underwater emergency repairs in any environment.

Task Force 73 is U.S. 7th Fleet’s theater security cooperation agent for South and Southeast Asia. The CTF 73 staff also coordinates diving and salvage operations across the Indo-Asia-Pacific on behalf of the U.S. 7th Fleet.

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