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Waters of Jajce give Canadians
training opportunity

By 1lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer#103, December 20, 2000

Jajce - A black hood breaks the surface, then another. The gurgling-sound from the breathing aperture, and a thumbs-up, signals that all is well. Then the hoods disappear again, leaving just a trail of bubbles from the deep.
To keep in training, Canadian Combat Divers have to dive at least six times every 90 days, regardless where in the world they are. Therefore, the divers from 12 Field Squadron of the 2 Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) Battle Group takes to the water in Jajce whenever they get a chance.
"We try to do this every month to keep ourselves current. A combat diver’s task includes demolition, mine-warfare, search and rescue, and providing safety for other water activities", explains Officer Commanding (OC) Maj. Craig Braddon.
And current they are. The experienced divers have been used for many dangerous and tragic missions. Among them, recovering casualties from a downed commercial airliner which crashed in the Atlantic ocean, just off Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia (Canada) 1998. All of the nearly 200 passengers died in the crash.
"Also, just before we came to Theatre, we had a tornado in Alberta (Canada). Several caravans blew into a lake, and our divers worked with the recovery. Luckily, it turned out that no people were in the vehicles", said Braddon.
At Jajce, the divers must be cautious. Pipes and dam-systems in the lake are a danger, restricting the area where diving is safe. But safety is not something the Canadian Combat Divers take lightly.
"We have tested the water, and stay away from any dam-features. We always have boats following the divers, and have an ambulance on site", said Braddon.
A water-temperature of eight degrees centigrade does not scare them.
"No, it's not cold. Not for guys like us", laughed Cpl. Kevin Spurrell.
Their wet-suits keep the cold away.
"The water is good, and we have good visibility. Now we just did a navigation swim and checked the embankment. We actually found two sunken 20 feet long wooden boats", he said.
During a navigation swim, the divers take out a bearing and coarse to their destination, and navigate themselves under water to reach it.
"During these dives, we go no deeper than 20 feet", said Maj. Braddon.
It's not unlikely that the expertise of the Canadian Combat Divers will be needed in the Theatre.
"Last time I was down here, in 1996, we had to dive under a destroyed bridge to see what was underneath before the engineers could rebuild it", said Braddon.
Anyway, the diving training is a welcomed break from their normal routines at Camp Maple Leaf in Zgon.
"The hardest thing is to find time for it. But it's good for our morale to get to dive out here and away from camp", smiles Cpl. Spurrell.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Canada
Miscellaneous