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Dive training for sappers and fire-fighters

Sappers and firefighters train together to hone their underwater skills

Exercise Eagles Fire has seen divers from 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s Under Water Search and Recovery (UWSAR) take to the water together across Norfolk.

Sappers and firefighters have trained together to hone their underwater skills. Royal Engineer divers are trained to carry out underwater construction, demolition, search, survey and recovery; while Norfolk is the country’s only fire and rescue service with a diving team trained to carry out search and recovery of bodies, vehicles and weapons.

The week-long underwater masterclass allowed the divers to demonstrate their different kit and techniques and share best practice while building links between the Army and emergency services in East Anglia.

The firefighters showed their forensic and evidence collection skills at Whitlingham Broad and roped access techniques at Thornham Reservoir, while the sappers demonstrated their construction abilities in the North Sea off Great Yarmouth.

Develop capabilities by collaborating

Captain Steve Robinson, dive officer for Woodbridge-based 23 Para Engr Regt, said: “It’s been a really good opportunity for us to work with different divers and understand how they apply the same basic skills to do a slightly different job.

"We both perform underwater searches, but the firefighters use different equipment and methods and have to consider the complexities of preserving forensic evidence for police investigations. We’ve learnt a lot from a team that is very experienced at carrying out real life diving tasks.”

Alan Nicholls, UWSAR station manager, said: “I’m a former Royal Engineer diver and recognise that we can both develop our capabilities by collaboration. My divers have seen how fit and motivated the soldiers are and their high levels of professionalism and safety awareness and their willingness to learn new skills and consider different ways of getting round a problem.”

Diving is a key capability for 23 Para Engr Regt in its role providing close combat engineering support to the Air Assault Task Force (AATF), which sees 16 Air Assault Brigade maintain a force ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice for operations from disaster relief to war fighting.

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