In January, 1991, AUSCDT Three (Australian Clearance Diving Team Three – last formed in 1967 to serve in Vietnam) was reformed with personnel drawn from across the Clearance Diving branch and despatched to Bahrain to help the U.S. Marines prepare for the proposed amphibious invasion of Iraqi occupied Kuwait. As Operation Desert Storm progressed the requirement for an amphibious assault lessened, the Team’s primary mission became the Explosive Ordnance Disposal [EOD] clearance of the ports of Kuwait.
The twenty-three man team entered Kuwait by land on the 5th March. Joining almost fifty other divers from the US and Royal Navies they began the dangerous task of clearing wharves and warehouses of unexploded ordnance and booby traps before entering the oil blackened waters of the harbour to search for, and dispose, of sea mines.
During the next seven days AUSCDT Three cleared over 450,000 square meters of seabed, searching for both buoyant contact and influence ground mines. An effort that represented seventy per cent of the harbour area cleared by coalition forces by the time the port re-opened to shipping. Their efforts weren’t restricted to below the surface operations. During this time the Team also rendered safe three Iraqi sea-mines, carried out booby trap clearance on a nearby oil refinery and assisted US personnel to recover six anti-ship missiles from the Kuwaiti Girls Science High School.
Moving south, AUSCDT Three were next tasked with clearing the Kuwaiti Naval Base of Ras Al Qualai Ah. The ten day operation involved removing booby traps and rendering safe thirty-one sea mines. Back in Kuwait City the Team continued work on clearing the harbours and beaches that were Kuwait’s lifeline with the world.
On the 11th May, after three and a half months deployed, AUSCDT Three returned to Australia to be disbanded and members returned to their parent Teams. During their time in the field they had cleared four ports, dealt with 60 seamines, cleared 234,986 pieces of ordnance and searched an astonishing 2,157,200 square metres of sea bed! They lost count of the number of booby traps with which they had to contend.
AUSCDT Three had distinguished itself well in Kuwait and earned for the RAN Clearance Diving Branch an international reputation for skill and professionalism. Recognition of their achievements included the award of two Conspicuous Service Cross’s, 1 Order Of Australia Medal, 4 Conspicuous Service Medals, an Australian Meritorious Unit Citation and an Admiral’s Commendation.
The above article was a panel piece accompanying the previous “Things that go ‘Bang’ in the night” story first published in Professional Diver Journal in 1999.
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