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Reserve Component Sailors Play Key Roles in Submarine Rescue Exercise

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS121203-20

By Capt. David M. Osen, Commander Submarine Squadron 11 Public Affairs

ARABIAN SEA (NNS) -- U.S. Navy Reserve component Sailors played key roles in exercise INDIAEX 2012, the first bilateral submarine rescue exercise between the U.S. and Indian navies.

INDIAEX 2012 took place from Oct. 19 to Nov. 13 off the coast of Mumbai, India, with parts of the exercise at sea from Oct. 30 to Nov. 6.

Working with five Indian navy submarines, the U.S. Navy's Undersea Rescue Command (URC) demonstrated and practiced the ability of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS) to rescue stricken submariners. They performed submerged, "open hatch" operations over four days, including one day where URC was able to conduct operations with two different submarines in the same day - an accomplishment never attained before. The URC transferred and rescued 158 people from these five Indian navy submarines.

Submarine rescue exercises foster safety and international good will by providing joint opportunities to practice the complex skills required for a deep sea rescue. Exercises like INDIAEX 2012 allow for bilateral training while sharing both skills and cultures, which enhances relationships between U.S. naval forces and other countries' navies. The U.S. Navy's small, but highly proficient submarine rescue team gains significant experience through the practice of its skills in a realistic and challenging scenario such as INDIAEX 2012.

URC is a relatively small organization with these significant global responsibilities. Made up of a mixed cadre of 120 uniformed military, including both active duty and reserve, government civilian, and contractor staff, URC is on call 24/7 to deploy anywhere in the world.

The reserve component provides over half of the manpower and includes specially trained divers, electronics technicians, medical staff, and officers who specialize in deep sea rescue. Should a submarine disaster occur, all URC members, including the reservists who have regular day jobs, receive text messages and mobilize within four hours. San Diego area reservists meet on the tarmac at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego and assist with equipment load-out on military aircraft. In the meantime, other reservists travel to a port close to the downed submarine so they can be ready to offload equipment when it arrives and subsequently load the SRDRS onto a merchant vessel with whom the military has an agreement.

As reservists, these 66 Sailors are part of the Submarine Force Reserve Component (SFRC). They work with thirteen other SFRC reservists who support URC's higher headquarters, namely Submarine Squadron Eleven in San Diego, and the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) in Norfolk. Though these sailors have global responsibility and can deploy anywhere in a matter of hours, they actually represent the smallest portion of the SFRC, as other branches support undersea warfare operations at fleet headquarters, maintenance of submarines overseas, and force protection for the submarine force.

URC reserve sailors served in key positions during INDIAEX. Members served as liaison officers onboard the submarines including overnight stays, internal attendants in the SRDRS rescue module FALCON, Rescue Officer, and internal rescue module FALCON support. In fact, the senior U. S. naval officer during the exercise was a reservist who also served as Coordinator Rescue Forces.

Exercises like INDIAEX prove that the partnership between the active and reserve components is essential. The reserve component provides long-term subject matter expertise and operational support to the submarine rescue mission cost effectively. Instead of paying for 120 full-time employees, the active and reserve partnership allows for a surge capability without excessive day-to-day costs for the Navy.


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