Rear Adm. Joseph A. DiGuardo Jr., commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), participated in an underwater survey of the USS Arizona Memorial, July 16.
The survey was conducted during a visit to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and was a collaborative effort between MDSU-1 and the National Park Service.
“Any day you are able to get into the water is a good day,” said DiGuardo. “However, there aren’t many opportunities that equal being in the presence of the Arizona Memorial. I am very appreciative of MDSU-1 and the National Park Service in making this dive a reality.”
Due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, this was DiGuardo’s first visit to MDSU-1 since taking command of NECC in September 2020.
MDSU-1 was ready and prepared for the NECC commander’s visit, said Cmdr. Bill Williams, MDSU-1’s commanding officer.
“It was an honor hosting the Commander and diving him on one of the nation’s most sacred underwater sites, the USS Arizona,” said Williams. “Knowing Rear Adm. Diguardo for over 29 years and having worked with him throughout my career, I was proud to present our team and to showcase the professionals we have here at MDSU-1. It was not lost on me that making the dive with Rear Adm. DiGuardo, along with some of the Navy’s newest divers, was at the site where some of the U.S. Navy’s most memorable salvage operations took place.”
Williams said MDSU-1 is the only U.S. dive and salvage unit in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility, and they also support operations in U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. European Command.
As part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Force, MDSU-1 possess specialized skills that allow them to conduct expeditionary dive and salvage operations, carrier strike group recompression chamber operations, and commander task group level command-and-control operations in support of the fleet and joint force, Williams added.
“Even for highly skilled divers, each dive requires focus and preparation to ensure that each member of the team fulfills their role, “said Navy Diver 1st Class Jeffery Baker, who added that safety is always a priority for Navy divers.
“As the diving supervisor, I feel like Rear Adm. DiGuardo fit right into the team,” said Baker. “I am proud that the dive went well and that we were able to safely accomplish this mission for MDSU-1.”
The diving opportunity also gave MDSU-1 an opportunity to explore new capabilities.
“We were able to utilize a new system, the diver panel system, to use for underwater-to-surface communications,” said Navy Diver 1st Class Andrew Gose. “Doing this, we could communicate with the underwater engineer from the underwater construction team (UCT) to capture any discrepancies or pylons that may be degrading. It was fantastic to have one of our divers from MDSU-1 go with the UCT diver and get experience inspecting pylons, the intricacies of the inspection itself and the planning that goes into these inspections.”
Gose said each diver understands the significance of working on the Arizona and what the memorial means to people throughout the world, and added that the honoring sentiment does not change, even after working aboard it many times.
“It is humbling when you think of all the sacrifices people have made to ensure that this monument stays here and the sacrifices that they continue to make,” said Gose. “Everyone working together to keep the Arizona intact and a place where millions of people can visit and pay respects to.”
Pearl Harbor National Memorial has a long-standing relationship with the Navy, and the mobile diving and salvage unit commands stationed locally at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians and Navy divers from MDSU commands have helped restore historic mooring quays, inspect underwater piles for structural integrity, and aid in the planning of future resource protection. Their histories are intertwined with the efforts of Pearl Harbor commemorations when interring USS Arizona and USS Utah survivors into the hulls of their respective ships.