Diving Articles

Diving Training at the Special Police Unit of the Republic of Slovenia

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Posted in columns: Diving Photo: M. Tomazin

Special Police Unit of the Republic of Slovenia (Slov. Specialna enota policije Republike Slovenije) is one of the most important national security components in the state’s fight against terrorism and modern organized crime. Such status requires unit’s high operability and reliability in all conditions (summer, winter, on land, in the air, on the water surface or beneath it), because these threats are very diverse, complex and are under constant evolution.

Due to the fact that the Republic of Slovenia has access to the sea, special attention is paid to guarding the state’s coast, Slovenian territorial waters, monitoring and securing boats along with their cargos and passengers. It is therefore essential that the security system has excellent trained operators, who can on highest level execute any task that is given in this field. A significant part of those tasks are undertaken by diving specialists from Special Police Unit – SPU.

The basic diving course of the operators from Special Police Unit is carried out through their basic training and is obligatory for all the operators of the unit. The basic diving training starts at the sea, lasts for seven days and is organized by instructors of diving, who are the most experienced divers in the unit. Also, during this training a doctor is present all the time. Through this week operators of the unit will undergo basic theoretical and practical training which should train them for snorkeling (breath diving, free diving) and diving with autonomous diving apparatus. Prior to the beginning of the course, all the operators will undergo rigorous specialistic medical examination in order to determine the absence of health problems and conditions that are marked as obstacles for this type of training.

Within the lectures operators of the Special Police Unit will learn the usage of basic diving equipment such as diving suits, masks, breathing apparatus and usage of the special computers for this purpose. Also, great attention is paid to learning and mastering communication signs that are used while diving.

A diver must acquire skills that will allow him to define and organize a good diving plan, which includes parameters like place, time, depth for a particular dive, defining the time required for decompression etc.

Practical training starts with learning the techniques of snorkeling/ free diving in shallow water. Operators will also learn how to accept and control the fear of water. Special attention is given to the actions of emptying diving mask underneath the surface, which are through constant repetition mastered to automaticity. At this phase operators become more familiar with the environment under water.

Reliable gear of the specialists.Photo: Milan Tomazin

After learning basic principles and techniques of free diving, operators will undergo training with autonomus apparatus that enable breathing underneath the surface. These devices can be with closed or open-circuit breathing and, as a rule, consist of hydrostatic regulators and cylinders (diving tanks) filled with compressed air. Divers must be able to mount all the equipment needed for diving under the water, to maintain balance and to perform actions of so-called buddy breathing. These actions are performed when one of the divers runs out of air in his tank and starts sharing air with the second diver from his diving pair or group. It is important for divers to remain calm in these situations, because running out of air is already stressful by itself.

Most of these basic diving course for operators of the Special Police Unit is carried out in groups, due to one of the most important rules of diving: never dive alone, if possible. Operators will learn how to move in a formation through water, particularly by diving pairs, coordination with the leader of the diving group and similar skills.

After this seven-day training, the basic diving course for operators of the SPU is finished. At that moment, operators should be able to perform:

-searching missions (searching all kind of water or area close to water) when there is a possibility that these actions can collect facts that are relevant for resolving committed or attempted crimes, particularly when it is possible to find items connected with criminal acts
-searching for drowned persons
-search and rescue tasks and providing technical assistance during natural disasters
-searching boats with cargos and passengers

Advanced diver training for operators of the SPU is organized in the country, within the unit or in collaboration with other formations, as well as abroad, through joint exercises with other units and through specialistic courses.
This level of training involves segments of combat diving, especially carrying out complex tactical situations like raids on vessels, mining skills, especially finding and working with EOD on the surface and beneath it, and similar. This training is pretty expensive, so the unit’s command is taking great effort to provide its operators with the best possible professional training and operators themselves often privately undergo courses such as complex training of technical diving, diving with Nitrox and Trimix mixtures etc.

Specialist training of the divers includes courses of special actions tactics. Photo: Milan Tomazin

Cooperation with units from abroad is an important part of the plan and program of training for divers of the SPU, and as a rule is carried out yearly. In the region, SPU has a good cooperation with Serbian Special Anti-terrorist Unit – SAU, as with colleagues from Croatia and Hungary. With the divers from the Serbian SAU joint training was carried out several times: at sea in Slovenia and on the rivers of Danube and Sava in Serbia. With colleagues from Croatia joint dives were organized under the ice as a part of winter training, along with the dives on greater depths and near wrecks of submerged vessels. Experience and knowledge acquired through joint training is of great importance for the training level and professional quality of the SPU’s divers.

Gear and Weaponry

As for the equipment that is available to the divers from Slovenian Special Police Unit, there are wet suits with 3-7 mm of thickness that are made of neoprene, along with dry suits from a reliable manufacturer Ursuit. Wet suits are used for diving in shallower water, when the temperature of water does not fall below 14 degrees of Celsius. Thermal insulation effect of neoprene sheet keeps the body heat of a diver. Dry suits are used in situations where it is necessary to prevent the penetration of water, either because of low temperatures, or due to large dirt in water. In these cases, diver’s gear is completed with full-face masks that also allow divers to communicate with the operator above the surface. As for divers tanks, steel tanks with a 15 liters of capacity are mostly used, with air compressed to 200 bars. Also, there are carbonic tanks with the capacity of 6,7 l with air compressed to 300 bars that come from well-known manufacturer Interspiro. Hydrostatic regulators come from a reliable Apex company. Special diving computers are a very important part of the equipment, due to their capability to accurately and quickly process and measure all data that is relevant for diving and for the needs of the SPU these computers were purchased from the company Aldin Galileo. Essential parts of the equipment are diving watches and knives that are usually made of stainless steel or hard ceramic, with ergonomic grips made of high quality polymer. Knives are usually placed in polymer holsters that are attached to diver’s suit or vest. Depending on the circumstances, during a dive a waterproof cameras can be worn in order to record a dive, so that video can be used as an evidence in court.

As for the weapon that is concerned during combat mission, preference is given to a lighter, compact and accurate weapon that can operate underwater. For handguns, reliable Glock 17 in 9 x 19 Para/ Luger is often used and can be adapted to the needs of divers by installing silencers. For SMG weapon, divers mostly thrust to German HK MP5 in 9 x 19 mm in A5 and SD3 variants that are often equipped with red dot sights Aimpoint CompM3 or holographic EOTech 553 and other tactical gear, depending on the assumed depth of a dive. As for the assault rifles, for this tasks are suitable HK 416 and HK G36E, both in 5.56 x 45 mm NATO.

Through the past, divers from Special Police Unit – SPU were usually activated for tasks like searching items that are associated with committed crimes, searching missing persons who are presumed to be drowned in all aquatic environments (sea, rivers, lakes). One such intervention was carried out during the accident within the complex of power plant Blanca, when twelve people drowned.

Successful completion of all given tasks is an imperative for Slovenian divers, so training is taken and performed very seriously. In the future, there is an idea to intensify the cooperation with colleagues from abroad, including joint exercises of a larger scale. By entering the Republic of Slovenia to the European Union, Special Police Unit became a member of the Atlas Group, so the opportunity for training and exchanging experiences with the divers from elite European units is greatly increased.

The text is copyrighted work of the administrator. Photos are copyrighted work of a photographer Milan Tomazin. Copying or downloading in other way, without permission of the administration, is prohibited.

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