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Training to be heroes

STONEY COVE, England – Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Doug Westling, 56th Rescue Squadron master diver, places an ammunition can into the water during rescue dive training Oct. 5. For training purposes, white tape was placed over goggles to simulate low visibility when locating and retrieving submerged sensitive materials.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Doug Westling, 56th Rescue Squadron master diver, places an ammunition can into the water during rescue dive training Oct. 5. For training purposes, white tape was placed over goggles to simulate low visibility when locating and retrieving submerged sensitive materials. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Senior Airman Nathan Simonson, 56th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, enters the water in preparation to conduct subsurface search patterns during rescue dive training Oct. 5. The yellow rope was used between the diver and his wingman on land to relay line pull signals. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Senior Airman Nathan Simonson, 56th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, enters the water in preparation to conduct subsurface search patterns during rescue dive training Oct. 5. The yellow rope was used between the diver and his wingman on land to relay line pull signals. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Pararescuemen from the 56th Rescue Squadron train for subsurface search, rescue and recovery Oct. 5. The pararescuemen trained in a controlled environment allowing them to focus on their curriculum without being disturbed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Pararescuemen from the 56th Rescue Squadron train for subsurface search, rescue and recovery Oct. 5. The pararescuemen trained in a controlled environment allowing them to focus on their curriculum without being disturbed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Senior Airman Eli Reynolds, 56th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, checks his equipment during subsurface search, rescue and recovery training Oct. 5. The combined equipment of all the divers weighed between 1,500 and 1,800 lbs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Senior Airman Eli Reynolds, 56th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, checks his equipment during subsurface search, rescue and recovery training Oct. 5. The combined equipment of all the divers weighed between 1,500 and 1,800 lbs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Pararescuemen from the 56th Rescue Squadron perform equipment checks before entering the water for subsurface search, rescue and recovery training Oct. 5. Pararescumen wear dry suits when training for real-world missions. Dry suits allow protection from exposure to contaminants while in the water.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Pararescuemen from the 56th Rescue Squadron perform equipment checks before entering the water for subsurface search, rescue and recovery training Oct. 5. Pararescumen wear dry suits when training for real-world missions. Dry suits allow protection from exposure to contaminants while in the water. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Senior Airman Eli Reynolds, 56th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, pulls tension on the line while surface swimming to his descent point for subsurface search, rescue and recovery training Oct. 5. Before descending, dive instructors observe the diver for possible bubbles in their air manifolds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England – Senior Airman Eli Reynolds, 56th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, pulls tension on the line while surface swimming to his descent point for subsurface search, rescue and recovery training Oct. 5. Before descending, dive instructors observe the diver for possible bubbles in their air manifolds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lausanne Morgan)

STONEY COVE, England -- For the past week, the 56th Rescue Squadron has been conducting subsurface search, rescue and recovery training here.

The pararescuemen trained in a controlled environment allowing them to focus on their curriculum without being disturbed.

The cove, far removed from the unpredictable English coastline, provided a closed-off area with pre-positioned tugboats, helicopters and other various wrecks with various depths.

"The purpose of us being down here is for the dive supervisor who is attached to the 56th RQS and the divers to prep themselves for theatre, whether it be Iraq or over in Afghanistan," said Master Chief Petty Officer (retired) Doug Westling, 56th Rescue Squadron master diver. "They're getting ready to deploy and they need to sharpen their diving skills."

Dive supervisor Staff Sgt. Jeremy Diola, 56th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, is in charge of all aspects of diving, safety and operations.

Before, during and after the dive, the individuals are briefed, run through scenarios, and perform equipment checks.

"I make sure we perform pre-dive checks, execution and post dive procedures and just ensuring everyone is staying within the Navy and Air Force dive regulations," said Sergeant Diola.

One measure to ensure safety is wearing dry suits. Dry suits allow protection from exposure to contaminants while in the water. Normal clothing can also be worn underneath the suit to make it more comfortable for the individual.

The 56th brought between 1,500 to 1,800 pounds of equipment with them to the training site which included all the scuba diving gear, air tanks and mannequins for performing various scenarios.

"They'll do insertion dives where they'll simulate going down into a downed aircraft, perform extractions with mannequins to simulate recovering bodies, and dexterity evolutions to simulate being found and doing emergency egresses," said Mr. Westling. "These are the final skill sets they're going to perfect prior to them deploying."

For scuba diving enthusiasts, a day out in the water might consist of taking photos of beautiful sea life and exploring the depths. For the pararescuemen of the 56th RQS, it's all about saving lives and, most would tell you, a way of life.

"I love my job," said Sergeant Diola. "Just the personal connection you get with the people you go out and save and the group of guys is one of the best things about it. Rescue in itself is a real personal thing and it's really satisfying."


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