Diving Articles

Diving Training at the Special Support Unit of the SIPA of the B&H

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Posted in columns: Diving Photo: SIPA, B&H

Special Support Unit was established in September 2005 as an organizational unit of the State Investigation and Protection Agency - SIPA (Bosn. Državna agencija za istrage i zaštitu), intended for execution of the most complex tactical and operational – technical police actions in all conditions and through authorizations based on state laws. Special purpose, and thus a great responsibility, required a significant resources investment in training and equipment purchasing, so that unit’s operability could reach a high level in a rational period of time.

Thanks to the great effort of the management of the unit and of the State Investigation and Protection Agency, Special Support Unit has succeeded to organize and execute a significant part of training of its police officers through cooperation with respectful instructors and elite units from abroad, while SSU’s operators nowadays have reliable weaponry and equipment. Efficiency in tasks executing, professionalism and constant improvement have made Special Support Unit of SIPA an important element of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in fighting organized crime and terrorism.

An important part of the duties and tasks from SSU’s purpose is executed by the specially trained Diving Group, which was, soon after unit’s establishment, organised within the Department for Operations Beta (Bosn. Odsek za operacije “Beta”). Those operators who expressed a desire for professional specialization in this segment of specialist training and passed detailed specialist medical tests were chosen for Diving Group.

The first basic training for the operators of the Diving Group was organized at the diving club Buck (Bosn. Buk) located in the city of Banja Luka. The course included theoretical lectures about basic diving gear, its purpose and method of use. Also, a significant part of the lectures was related to the basics of the decompression process and criteria for planning and organizing a good diving plan. First practical actions and tasks were organized and executed at the diving club’s pool, for the purposes of accommodation of the divers with water environment and practicing actions of mounting diving gear below the surface. In order to create realistic conditions in the training of the operators of the Special Support Unit, the largest part of the practical training in this basic course was executed in Montenegro, in a place called Rose. In order to get positive reviews and to successfully complete the course, operators of the unit had to meet instructors high standards in performing actions such as emptying the diving mask under water, mounting all the diving gear at a depth of 5 meters, actions of balancing, buddy breathing and similar. Actions of the buddy breathing are performed in situations where one diver runs out of air in his tank, so he starts sharing regulator with a diver from his pair or a group. Practicing these actions is very important for the acquisition and development of trust between members of the diving team, as well as for their own confidence when performing a dive.

Reliable gear of the specialists. Photo: SIPA, B&H

By completing basic diving course, operators of the Diving Group of the Special Support Unit of SIPA BiH received their first diving stars and titles that are in accordance with the standards of CMAS[1], a prestigious international diving school.

Acquired skills and titles were just a first step in creating a highly trained and operative diving group of the Special Support Unit. The need for professional specialization was further emphasized due to harsh conditions that are characteristic for the territorial waters of Bosnia and Herzegovina (such as low water temperature, high dirt of the water, strong currents etc). Due to the decision of the Management of the SIPA led by Goran Zubac, who noticed the need for the establishment of specially trained and equipped diving group and its importance in the work of the Agency, further plans for advanced training of the divers began in country, as well as abroad. Divers of the Special Support Unit have successfully completed specialist courses in EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) training by NATO standards, and gained titles of EOD technicians of the II level, within which divers mastered skills of underwater reconnaissance, locating, identifying and performing controlled detonations of the explosive devices.

In accordance with the Plan and Program of Training for the divers of the Special Support Unit, great attention is paid to the mastering of underwater orientation, field searching (such as bottoms of the rivers, lakes, caves and similar, as well as ground area that is close to the water), performing dives at greater depths in hydroaccumulation lakes, diving in strong currents and the like. Recently, there was a need for training and mastering tactical actions of saving people in rapid water flows, as well as in flooded areas, which is intelligently implemented in a regular training of the divers of SSU.

Also, very important part of the training are joint exercises with units from abroad. A good relations and cooperation in this direction have been achieved with divers of the Department for Special Diving Activities and Training of the Czech Police. With colleagues from Czech, divers of the Special Support Unit carried out several complex courses of technical diving (which refers to dives at greater depths by using a dry suits) in accordance with the standards of TDI Association, as well as courses of underwater demining. Joint courses were organized through the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as in Montenegro and learned skills were intelligently applied while cleaning the bottom of the river Sava, which divers from SSU carried out in cooperation with divers from the Czech Republic and on that occasion a great amount of unexploded devices was successfully removed. Tasks of this type are extremely risky and require highly trained and well equipped divers. By completing this task without a single mistake, divers justified the given thrust as well as quality of their training that is planned and carried out through adopted curriculum at their unit.

Advanced training requires special diving gear in order to perform complex courses and tasks. Photo: SIPA, B&H

Besides this, divers of the Special Support Unit are often activated for tasks of searching and securing items for which there is a reasonable suspicion that they are connected with committed or attempted criminal acts and are thrown in waters of the BiH.

Gear and Weaponry

As for the special gear that is available to the operators of the Diving Group of the Special Support Unit, diving suits made from neoprene with 5 mm thickness are used mostly, and for the needs of dives at greater depths there are dry suits that come from well – known manufacturer Ursuit. Basic diving gear of the specialists is made of buoyancy compensators, also from the same manufacturer, diving computers from Liquivision, X1 and Suunto, as well as hydrostatic regulators from Poseidon, and diving watches and knives come from several companies and are often purchased privately by operator themselves. Dual tanks with 2 x 12 liters are mostly used with air compressed at 200 bar, as well as additional tanks with 7 and 10 liters, also with air compressed at 200 bar.

As for weaponry, specialists can choose a compact PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) FN P90 in a specific caliber 5.7 x 28 mm. With relatively low weight, good ergonomic and high capacity of a magazine, P90 is a good choice for combat tasks for which divers of the Special Support Unit are trained. Also, FN SCAR L CQC in 5.56 x 45 mm NATO is available, which can be modified for the needs of a diver by mounting a holographic sight EOTech 553, for which manufactures claims it can work at depths up to 20 meters. When it comes to the secondary weapon, logical choice definitely is semi – automatic handgun Glock 17 Gen 4 in 9 x 19 mm Parabellum/ Luger, which is proven to be reliable in all field conditions.

Special Support Unit of the SIPA of BiH, although relatively young, has managed, in short period of time, to set up a solid foundation for training of its operators, thanks to the great effort of the management of the Agency. By constant specialization divers of the Special Support Unit and their colleagues are increasing and mastering their skills, which leads to operability increasing of the entire unit, in order to effectively respond to the most complex duties and tasks entrusted to them, all for the purpose of strengthening the security of all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

[1] Fra. Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques. CMAS is the first international diving school, established in 1959 and gatheres national diving federations.

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