By Staff Sgt. Eliverto Larios | 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Public Affairs Office
Editor’s note: The full names and identifications of those serving in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) are withheld due to safety and security of the Soldiers and their Families.
FORT CARSON, Colo. — A record-setting cold-weather front provided a prime training opportunity for Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) to dive through the sheet of ice covering Townsend Reservoir at the Mountain Post.
The Green Berets set out to improve their maritime skills by diving under the ice-covered Reservoir Feb. 18, 2021. The ice diving training was the first of its kind performed by the 10th SFG(A) in more than five years. It allowed the team to familiarize themselves with specialized ice diving gear, and get a better grasp on the required skillset to thrive in an arctic dive.
With frigid temperatures and snow-covered mountains as a backdrop, they laid out their equipment on the shoreline. With one member in a full dive suit and the others acting as safeties, the team went through pre-dive checks, laying in the water to make sure all hoses were connected correctly and there were no leaks in the wet suit.
Once the checks were complete, it was time to dive. Each Green Beret took their turn disappearing under the ice sheet into the dark freezing water while tethered to a safety diver who stood a few feet into the reservoir. The submerged diver would swim out into the reservoir and punch through the ice, giving a thumbs-up to signal that everything was OK. After a few more minutes, each diver emerged from the water and removed their gear with the help of their teammates.
10th SFG(A) is already the home to the Special Operations Advanced Mountaineering School (SOAMS) and the Winter Warfare Detachment experts, but is increasingly focused on how to fight and win in the unforgiving environment north of the Arctic Circle.
The arctic environment necessitates advanced training because it is an inherently deadly atmosphere where even routine mistakes can be fatal, explained a member of the 10th SFG(A). Losing a glove in the desert or the jungle is an inconvenience; in the arctic, it can cost a Soldier their hand and their ability to survive, let alone thrive, in combat.
Diving in that environment adds an even greater level of risk and a requirement for absolute mastery of individual technical skills. With the help of several expert divers, some former Special Operations veterans, the team was able to emulate an environment similar to what they would find in an arctic warfare environment and understand the importance of the training.
The focus on arctic warfare is part of a DOD wide effort to train and fight in the far north. The arctic is of strategic interest for its untapped natural resources, shipping lanes and proximity to world powers.
Last month, during an Association of the U.S. Army virtual event, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville emphasized the importance of having such capabilities in the arctic.
“Optimizing the employment of our forces and being able to demonstrate our capabilities through combined exercises and power projection are critical,” said McConville.
The Army even recently upgraded the design of its Arctic Tab and issued new guidance for its wear — the redesigned tab is worn above the unit patch like the Ranger and Sapper tabs. The Arctic tab is earned by completing either the Cold Weather Leaders Course or the Cold Weather Orientation Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center located in Black Rapids, Alaska.