UCT-1 Integrates Engineering Skills to Support Minneapolis Search and Recovery Efforts

By Senior Chief Petty Officer Dave Nagle Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs

MINNEAPOLIS -- Seabees from Underwater Construction Team 1 (UCT-1) are assisting Divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU-2) in the continuing search and recovery efforts at the site of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

Lt. Li Ping Sung, the executive officer of UCT-1, has been working with MDSU-2 divers in Minneapolis since Aug. 6, at the request of the Department of Transportation and in support of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. 

Active duty military responders are under the command of the Defense Coordinating Officer, which is assigned to U.S. Army North.  Army North, located at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. Army North provides Defense Support of Civil Authorities as the Army component of U.S. Northern Command, the unified command headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., that is responsible for homeland defense and civil support. Each DCO, and DCE, is collocated with a FEMA regional headquarters to assist in planning for federal disaster response missions.

UCT-1, like MDSU-2, is part of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), and consists of Navy Seabees with underwater repair and construction expertise along with specialized dive abilities.

"We handle construction and engineering-related tasks in waterfront and underwater environments," said Sung. 

Sung, a diver-qualified combat engineer, is part of the command and control element on scene, providing engineering expertise in assessing the wreckage and helping to develop plans on how the divers can best conduct their recovery operations while ensuring their maximum safety.

"My job is to provide engineering support from a diver perspective, and help determine the safest and most efficient way for the MDSU divers to meet their mission," explained Sung.  "The UCT skill sets are complimenting those of MDSU, and that allows us to offer a more complete and comprehensive package of abilities to the operational commander."

UCT-1 and MDSU-2 have worked together in the past, for example, in Um Quasr during the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom and during civil relief operations following Hurricane Katrina.

Cmdr. Dan Shultz, MDSU-2 commanding officer, added that the integration of  UCT-1's skills has worked very well, enhancing his unit's ability to compete the mission.

"This is a great example of adaptive force packaging at work, “Shultz said.  He added that, Sung’s contribution to the recovery efforts demonstrates through a small but relevant example, “NECC's ability to provide the right mix of expeditionary skills that are adaptable, responsive and ready to accomplish any mission," said Shultz. 

"When the call came to provide support, we quickly assembled a team on a moment's notice with the right skill sets and expertise needed in this situation and were on scene within 48 hours as part of the Defense Coordinating Element supporting the local, state and federal agencies," Shultz said.