A Down and Dirty History of the Underwater Construction Teams
Originally written by Captain David Balk in 2005, updated in 2013.
It was on February 10, 1974 that the CNO message announced the commissioning of both UCT ONE and UCT TWO, effective on that date. And for nearly 40 years, both teams have continuously made Seabee history and Navy Diving legend.
Though they started out small, they have grown not only in numbers, but in missions and value to the war fighter. They continue to push the envelope, and are the clear leaders in new practices and equipment for the entire Diving Navy. In their most recent history, they developed a process to conduct Sur-D-O2 dives using the TRCS — which is now a Navy standard. They developed the requirements and found the solution for a suitcase console, so that surface supplied diving can be conducted out of a small rubber boat using SCUBA — the equipment is going through ANU evals as I write. The Teams are the forefront of being light weight and highly mobile — and now the rest of the Hard Hat Diving Navy is following suit.
And it is not just the Diving Navy that the UCT’s are leading the way. It was the UCT’s that proved the concept of the Seabee Engineering Reconnaissance Team (SERT) was an effective concept — and now SERT is the norm throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Teams participated in OIF in support to the Marine Corps with the other Naval Construction Force (NCF) Units, and as the sole NCF unit support of Navy Operations ashore. While supporting the Marines, they performed task that they may not have been specifically trained for (bridge inspections, light river salvage), but as they always do, they adapted and made it look easy. And the Team in support of the Navy Units Ashore went far beyond the call by bringing their Seabee knowledge and combat skills to the other Navy Units, who where floundering till the Team arrived.
They continue to revise their skill sets, introducing the latest equipment while keeping a laser beam focus on mission accomplishment. They are the model of how to be surge deployable and be surge-ready. And though small in comparison with the rest of the NCF, they are briefed at all levels of command, from Commander Pacific Command to the FIRST Naval Construction Division, and their parent Regiments as one of the valued NCF units.
Today’s UCT is better equipped, better trained, better manned than the Teams of the past. But like those who have gone before, they remain Seabees first and foremost — using their diving skills to get to and from the job sites. The “CAN DO” spirit resonates in all they do, providing that construction expertise on land and in the water.
So as you take time to remember the day — take a vent and remember how great it is to be the best of both worlds — being a Seabee and a Navy Diver!
HOOYAH DEEP SEA !!!!
Captain David M. Balk, PE
CEC, USN , Ret.