Skip to main content
Related Content
  • Places-Shore Facilities--Bases-Stations-Labs-Installations
  • Underwater Activities--Diving-Construction-Salvage
Document Type
Wars & Conflicts
  • Cold War
File Formats
  • MS Word (Microsoft Word)
Location of Archival Materials
  • U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

History of Naval Ocean Facilities Program

Cable Landing
Caption: Cable burial on the beach

Ocean Facilities Program History


A Need – A Plan – A Program

The Imperatives for Improving Operations in the Ocean

The Soviets are here: In the early 1950’s, the Navy became increasingly concerned with the presence of Soviet submarines patrolling near our shores. The patrols and potential from these submarines presented a standing threat to our national security[i] and the sea lanes of communication[ii]. Project Caesar was started to develop the capability to detect Soviet submarines. At the time of the first installation of these systems, there was limited understanding of the ocean environment in which to install these systems and no ocean construction capabilities within the Navy. These associated deficiencies provided the impetus to improve ocean acoustic capabilities and analysis. But they also focused attention on all aspects of cable-laying technology. Cable selection, cable handling machinery, cable protection both near shore and deep ocean, and cable installation techniques from deep sea to shore facilities. Every aspect of cable technology was subject to review for improvement.

Loss of the Thresher: “On April 10, 1963, the submarine Thresher sank in 8400 feet of water off the New England coast. At the time she went down, the Navy had no organization, no search techniques, and no specific procedures for mounting a deep-ocean search and identification operation.”[iii]

“Ten days after the Thresher’s loss, Secretary of the Navy Fred H. Korth established a Deep Submergence Review Group chaired by Rear Admiral Edward C. Stephan, then Oceanographer of the Navy. The dual mission of the Deep Submergence Review Group was to assess the Navy’s capabilities in search, rescue, and recovery of objects and to evaluate the concept represented by saturation diving.”[iv]

As a result of recommendations from the Deep Submergence Review Group, “A major move forward came on May 28, 1964, when Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze announced the assignment of deep submergence responsibilities to the Chief of Naval Material and the formation of the Deep Submergence Systems Project within the Naval Material Command. At the same time, funding was made available for the necessary applied research and hardware development.”[v] Establishment of this project drew specialists from within the Navy as well as commercial practice. CDR Walt Eager, a Civil Engineer Corps officer, was assigned to the project from his job at the Bureau of Yards and Docks (BuDOCKS) to assist with ocean engineering interfaces from August 1966 until July, 1968.[vi]

Also, in the 1950’s and continuing into the 1960’s, further attention to deep ocean recovery operations was advanced due to nuclear weapons accidentally lost in the oceans. The Palomares incident on January 17, 1966, involved one nuclear weapon dropped into the Mediterranean in very deep water. It took 44 days of searching with the US. Navy’s deep search capabilities to find and finally recover that weapon.

The loss of the USS Scorpion in 1968 continued the focus on resolving deep ocean operational deficiencies.

These three imperatives of a military nature were further complemented by US Navy requirements to protect natural ocean resources, maintain negotiation positions for future laws and conventions pertaining to the oceans, and balance potential for international exploitation of the oceans for military and commercial purposes.[vii]


As early as 1959, the BuDOCKS tasked the Navy Civil Engineering Laboratory (NCEL) to begin developing an ocean engineering capability. This exploratory and advance research program which began with funding at $100K eventually developed into a $3.5 million dollar program of research in site selection and survey, bottom soil properties and foundations, construction systems, anchors and moorings, engineering mechanics and design, power systems and support systems.

In the early 1960’s, the Navy identified a need for "Man-in-the-Sea" capabilities that resulted in the development of the SEALAB Project with SEALAB I installed on the ocean floor in 1964 followed by two more projects, SEALAB II in 1965 and SEALAB III in 1969. LCDR Jim Osborn was the first CEC officer assigned to these "Man-in-the-Sea" projects as an aquanaut. These Navy projects were followed by Project Tektite in 1969 which was the first project supported by the NAVFAC Ocean Facilities Program. (See Projects menu).

The Deep Submergence Systems Project (DSSP) to develop the Navy’s search and rescue capabilities was complemented in 1968 when the Naval Material Command (NAVMAT) began the Deep Ocean Technology (DOT) program to advance the technology base for working in the oceans. “In the early stages of developing systems hardware for ocean engineering, it became apparent that a large gap existed between exploratory development and actual hardware production. As a result, the Deep Ocean Technology (DOT) Program was initiated in 1968 to provide an advanced technology base. Two focal projects were established to guide this development--a deep submersible vehicle and a manned underwater installation. The intent was to develop the capability to construct the focal projects, but not to construct them. Our ocean engineering developments are aimed directly at supporting national defense requirements as well as other benefits, such as in the areas of law, ocean services, resources, and sciences.”[viii]

On 1 May 1966, the Bureau of Yards and Docks transitioned into the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) as a part of the reorganization of the Department of the Navy. NAVFAC reported with the other newly renamed Bureaus to the Chief of Naval Material and as a component of the Naval Material Command.[ix]

From an ocean facilities perspective and because of the increasing ocean capability requirements, NAVMAT Notice 5460 of May 1966 [x] assigned the newly renamed Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) responsibilities for ocean facilities and construction of fixed surface and sub-surface ocean structures and OPNAVNOTE 5450 of November 1967 [xi] informed naval command elements of the responsibilities and capabilities of the Naval Construction Forces in support of oceanographic and deep ocean engineering projects and programs and advised of the responsibility of the Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command to plan for and develop the resource capabilities, readiness and material support of fixed surface/sub-surface ocean structures for the operating forces of the Navy and Marine Corps and associated activities.

To answer the tasking’s and direction provided by both the OPNAV and NAVMAT direction, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command established a task group that prepared Report on Study Topic 68-1: Plan for Definition of NAVFAC/NCF Role in Ocean Engineering. The objective of the study was to develop an overall time-phased plan to discharge the responsibilities and attain the level of competence required to undertake major undersea construction assignments within the following decade.[xii]

As succinctly summarized in the follow-on conference conducted in 1969, NAVFAC Study 68-1 committed to:

  • “Establishment of an Ocean Engineering Program Office (PC-2). Its mission is to organize, manage and coordinate, both internally and with other Navy Commands, Bureau and Offices all aspects of NAVFAC's Ocean Engineering Program responsibilities
  • Establishment at Chesapeake Division a field center of ocean engineering expertise
  • Establishment of a three-week Ocean Engineering course at CECOS
  • Formation of an underwater construction team
  • Development of selected advanced ocean engineering concepts to be presented to OPNAV and
  • Establishment in Code 04 of a Management Structure for the Deep Ocean Technology Program and an Ad Hoc Interim Ocean Engineering Task Force.”[xiii]

A need resulted in a plan being developed, and the plan matured into a program. The Ocean Facilities Program was born!


Implement the Plan, 1968 - 1974

CDR Eager was assigned as the initial Ocean Engineer Program Officer, PC-2, in July 1968.[xiv]  He assembled the headquarters program office composed of LT Bob Hudspeth and civilian Deputy Director, Whitey Odden. Collectively they commenced addressing each of the requirements from charter for the ocean engineering program as directed in NAVFAC Study 68-1.

Research and Development - The Deep Ocean Technology Program (DOT)

“The Deep Ocean Technology Program was initiated in FY68. The overall project direction and executive management of this program is retained by the Chief of Naval Material. The overall objective of the Deep Ocean Technology Program is to generate, expand, and exploit, as rapidly and economically as possible, the base of deep ocean technological knowledge.

NAVFAC had been assigned the principal development activity for the following subsystems:

(1)    site selection subsystem;

(2)    site operations system;

(3)    foundations, anchors, and moorings;

(4)    construction system;

(5)    energy power;

(6)    structural subsystems;

(7)    construction support system; and

(8)    seafloor construction experiments.”[xv]

While these roles and responsibilities were updated by NAVMAT in 1968, they follow a history of NAVFAC and the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory having been actively engaged on issues for deep ocean construction, through the Deep Ocean Engineering R&D Program since 1959. The early objectives of that program were to provide the Navy with the capability to design, construct, implant and recover, maintain and operate fixed ocean floor structures and equipment.

The addition of the NAVMAT DOT program as well as the initiation of the NAVFAC Ocean Facilities Program reinforced the on-going ocean engineering developments at NCEL and provided the knowledgeable professional participation of this one OFP team-mate to resolve identified deficiencies in all capabilities.

These efforts on-going at the NCEL required diving support. In 1967, NCEL established a dive locker with CEC/Seabee assets to answer the need, composed of two officers and nine enlisted. As described at the time, “The laboratory’s diving locker, with an allowance of two officers and nine enlisted, is a versatile underwater operation equipped to handle practically any job NCEL engineers take from the drawing board to ocean testing…It takes a team of skilled divers who can conduct underwater construction and in-situ inspection to make any ocean program a completely self-sustaining entity of RDT&E.”[xvi]


Although full information regarding the emerging Ocean Facilities Program was not widely available, CDR Eager used the growing interest in ocean engineering starting in 1964, to identify and assemble initial “recruits” into the program. In early 1971, LT Mike Weyler was assigned to the Chesapeake Division of NAVFACENGCOM, becoming the first officer to form the newly created Facilities Project Office One, or FPO-1. Soon thereafter, CDR Larry Donovan, who had been at graduate school at MIT, came on board to head FPO-1, followed shortly by LCDR Don Wells. FPO-1 was underway!

FPO-1 was organized into four divisions: Engineering, Planning, Operations, and a Specialty Division. The Engineering Division worked on project design, the Planning Division developed the design and planning manuals for operating in an ocean environment, Operations Division conducted field construction and the Specialty Division maintained engagement on classified programs. The greatest early challenge was locating and recruiting qualified engineers for the newly created positions. Many of the selectees were aerospace engineers who had the technical wherewithal to transition to the ocean environment. Bill Sherwood was selected as the Operations Director. Chuck Bodey was the head of Engineering and Ron Knight the head of Planning. Whitey Odden, who had been CDR Eager’s lead engineer at headquarters transitioned from NAVFAC PC-2 to lead the Specialty Division while Dr. Gene Silva and Ed Spencer were recruited from positions at FPO-1 to fill the Headquarters Deputy Director positions. Providing further office stability were the series of two secretaries: Tena Lord, and Cindy Fleming.

Engineering Education

As the Ocean Engineering Program was being envisioned in the late ‘60’s, there were not strong post-graduate programs widely available in academia for ocean engineering. In fact, the earliest CEC selectee to move through a university program and subsequent dive training. CAPT Jim Osborn, recounts: “In 1964, the Postgraduate Program Selection Board made the first two selections for training to begin in 1965. LT Robert D. Smart chose to go to MIT. Then LT James H. Osborn chose to go to Texas A&M University. Because there was no established curriculum, and the concept of an ocean engineering degree was new, the Navy assigned these two officers to attend the schools of their choice while developing the appropriate curriculum for future student. When LT Osborn arrived at Texas A&M University, he found they had no Ocean Engineering Department. The Civil Engineering Department and the Oceanography Department were still trying to decide whether or not a new Department was required, or for that matter, whether or not there was a need for a degree field in Ocean Engineerin Upon graduation in 1967, LT Osborn received a Master of Civil Engineering Degree. It wasn’t until several years later that Ocean Engineering degrees were granted at Texas A&M University.”[xvii]

NAVFAC recognized that while post-graduate education would eventually provide the appropriate technical background for officers serving the Ocean Facilities Program, a stop-gap level of training had to be offered to cover the contemporary void. In response, in 1970, the Civil Engineer Corps Officers School (CECOS) developed a two-week short course, Ocean Engineering, taught three times a year. the class was designed to introduce engineers to the field of ocean engineering, and teach them some of the basics upon which they could later expand their knowledge and experience. [xviii] This course continued until 1976 by which time a wider-availability of accredited PG-level degreed programs were offered by universities and the CEC had committed to providing graduate education through Navy programs leading to a Master of Science in Ocean Engineering (MSOE) degree.

Formation of Underwater Construction Teams

Historically, Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) had billet assignments for up to four Navy divers. “Their primary tasks included repair of war-damaged waterfront facilities, and construction of new bridges, piers, and POL (petroleum, oils and lubricants) facilities.”[xix] In 1968, there were 63 diving billets distributed within the Naval Construction Force.[xx]

In early 1969, Project Tektite I was underway in the USVI. The massive project was a scientist- in-the-sea experiment to learn about the behavioral and physiological effects on a diver living underwater under saturation conditions for months at a time. The project was successful from the scientific perspective but also provided a validation of the basic tenets and concepts of the emerging OFP and the abilities provided through underwater construction technicians. In August and December 1969, NAVFAC requested assignment of one diving officer to the Commander, 21st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) at Davisville, RI, and one diving officer to the Commander, 31st NCR at Port Hueneme, CA.[xxi] The officer was assigned to coordinate the nucleus of Atlantic and Pacific area underwater construction technicians. Initially, these divers were on the permanent rear echelon from their respective Atlantic and Pacific battalions.[xxii] LTJG Scott Stevenson was the initial officer assigned to the 21st NCR and LTJG Geoff Cullison the initial officer assigned to the 31st NCR.[xxiii] These groups were tasked with the development of underwater construction techniques, performing work in conjunction with various emerging RDT&E, and construction projects around the world. As projects were undertaken, the applied processes, labor, techniques and equipment were evaluated and improved. Tektite I was followed by the Azores Fixed Acoustic Range (AFAR) and AFAR efforts at AUTEC, both achieving success.

With validation of operational requirements, CNO published OPNAVINST 5450.182 on October 12, 1970, which stated in part: “The mission of the Naval Construction Force…is further defined to provide specifically for the establishment, improvement, and maintenance of an underwater facility construction capability. This includes the establishment (within priorities and capabilities) of special detachments as are necessary to meet assigned underwater construction requirements in support of Naval and Marine Corps operations.”

Over the next three years, requirements grew, and projects expanded to include cable landings and repairs in Alaska, Iceland, California; pipelines in La Maddalena, Italy and Diego Garcia; moorings throughout Fleet concentration areas; and pier construction at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. As a result, the size of these regimental detachments also increased. One officer and eight divers, expanded to “12 to 15 Seabee divers…With the team manning growing to approximately 28 enlisted and 2 officers”[xxiv] These regimental detachments became known as Underwater Construction Teams; UCT-1 on the East Coast and UCT-2 on the West coast. The unit names were developments from earlier identification in the NAVFAC Summary Report 68-1 and NAVFAC Proceedings report and were the natural titles in counterpoint to the Underwater Demolition Teams in operation at that time.[xxv]

“The successful underwater construction with Project Tektite, followed by further success with AFAR, crystallized the permanence of Seabee underwater construction capability. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt declared UCT 1 and UCT 2 independent on Nov. 1, 1973, and on Feb. 15, 1974, the Navy commissioned each team with an officer in charge.” [xxvi] Team size at that time was two officers and 35 enlisted.[xxvii]

Subsequent workloads drove requirements for team expansion for both officer and enlisted up to 3 officers and 52 enlisted. On October 1, 1985, the Underwater Construction Teams upgraded the OIC position to full Command status.[xxviii]

As field operations continued it was determined that the enlisted diving community also had a requirement for additional specialty training. In 1973, a program was initiated at the 31st NCR to establish a formal school to teach the skills and knowledge gained in the UCT’s during their initial project deployments.[xxix] Eventually curriculums were developed for both a basic and advanced course, which resulted in secondary NECs for a Basic Underwater Construction Technician and an Advanced Underwater Construction Technician. In finalizing the curriculum, the school was transferred from Regimental oversight to become a department within the Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC), Port Hueneme. The courses continued to improve at NCTC through application of the tools and technology to train new Seabee Divers in the basic course, as well as giving the more experienced divers the opportunity to develop and exercise skills of leadership in the advanced course by active supervision of the basic students in their field exercises.[xxx]

The Early Projects

SEALAB - Beginning in 1959, the U.S. Navy decided it needed information on the ability of man to survive and work for extended periods of time in an undersea environment. In 1964, the Navy began the SEALAB experiments in the deep ocean to place divers in a saturation environment for weeks at a time to learn about the effects of living and working in a high- pressure mixed gas environment. After the loss of the submarine Thresher in 1963, the Navy formed the Deep Submergence Systems Project Office to manage all new programs for developing the Navy’s capability for work, search and rescue operations in the deep ocean. The SEALAB program was placed under the DSSP office and CDR Walt Eager, CEC, USN was put in charge of it.

Tektite I - After the success of the Navy’s SEALAB II project using Navy divers to live in a submerged habitat for up to one month in 1965, the civilian departments of the government became interested in doing the same thing but with civilian divers. The Department of the Interior and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) decided to join forces to conduct a scientist-in-the-sea experiment to learn about the behavioral and physiological effects on a diver living underwater under saturation conditions for months at a time. General Electric joined with Interior and NASA to conduct this experiment and designed and built the habitat.

The General Electric Tektite Habitat weighed 160 tons and was planned to be installed in Great Lameshur Bay off St. Johns Island in the US Virgin Islands. A floating crane capable of lifting and placing the habitat in the oceans was too expensive to bring to St. Johns Island so ONR, who was the lead Navy organization for the project, tasked the Naval Facilities Engineering Command to develop a means to install the habitat. CDR Walt Eager, then head of the Ocean Facilities Program at NAVFAC, was assigned as the Project Engineer.

Antarctica Ice Pier Repairs – In the 1970’s ships resupplying and docking at McMurdo Station routinely used constructed ice piers along the shoreline. Ice piers have a lifespan of three to five years. Factors such as stress cracking and erosion shorten the duration. In addition, storm surges, wave action, contact with vessels, and the warm water discharge from ships contribute to degradation of the pier's seaward edge. Since the ships’ overboard discharge severely eroded the flat face below the surface, the quarry blasting technique was repeated each succeeding year of the pier’s life to create a new flat face a few feet from the previous year’s pier face.

AFAR Andros – The second project undertaken by PC-2 in developing the OFP ocean construction capabilities was the test installation of the Azores Fixed Acoustic Array (AFAR) in AUTEC in 1300 feet of water. The array was exceptionally large and weighed several tons making it difficult to launch using a floating crane. Further, the remoteness of the launch site made it impractical to bring a large crane to the site. Thus, an alternative launch concept was needed. Based on the lessons learned with the Tektite habitat launch in 1969, CDR Eager again used an AMMI pontoon to launch the AFAR array in AUTEC.

AFAR Cable Landing - After completing the construction experimental deployment of the AFAR array in AUTEC in February 1970, the planned deployment of the array moved to Santa Maria Island, Azores in the summer of 1970 for its final installation. This deployment involved the use of two cable laying ships, the Italian Cable Laying Ship SALERNUM and the British Cable Laying Ship BULLFINCH. The array was installed in deep water off Santa Maria Island and four undersea cables were laid from the array back to shore on the island with UCT-1 assist. Each of these cables were to be installed with Project Caesar split pipe for 1500 feet offshore and anchored to the seafloor using rock bolts.

AFAR Additional Cable Stabilization - UCT-1 diving operations in the summer of 1972 involved the installation of additional protection for the seafloor cables that had been landed at the Azores Fixed Acoustic Range by UCT-1 on the Azores Island of Santa Maria in 1970.

Diego Garcia POL Pipeline and Tanker Mooring Installation – As Diego Garcia was being developed as an operational base in the Indian Ocean, it was essential to have a reliable POL resupply system installed. FPO-1 and UCT-1 planned and installed two 2500-foot pipelines for fuel transfer from offshore supply ships in 1975. The project also provided a safe mooring installation for the tankers using propellant embedment anchors.

Addressing Concepts and Capabilities

From the outset of Ocean Facilities Program activity, it was recognized that standard operating procedures, capabilities and equipment used on land would need at a minimum alteration and in many circumstances complete reinvention to operate in the ocean environment safely and efficiently. Just as minor examples: the marine environment severely compromised the safe use of electric tools; pneumatic air supplies, a routine power source for terrestrial construction, were impacted by routine pressure variances experienced in the water column; and all tools, equipment and processes needed to recognize the essential “weightlessness” of any diver working undersea. Every early project undertaken by FPO-1 and the UCT’s took advantage of project experience to identify the challenges faced to complete the respective operation along with appropriate requests for improvement. Those efforts were subsequently translated into RDT&E requests to OPNAV for funding specific project resolutions. An Ocean Construction Equipment Inventory (OCEI); suites of diver tools, initially powered by hydraulics, later transitioned to seawater; better, smaller and more transportable recompression chambers; and even a fully operational construction platform, SEACON, were the results of these early identification efforts. (See Capabilities Menu for additional details).


It is fitting to end this section in the summer of 1974. At that point, CDR Walt Eager retired from the Navy and passed his assignment as Ocean Facilities Program Director to CDR Larry Donovan.[xxxi]

CDR Eager had carried the Ocean Facilities Program from the initial OPNAV direction to NAVFAC through the development of a plan for such support to completion of the various offices, commands and personnel to provide that support. As he retired, the Navy through NAVFAC had an ocean engineering capability that had not only been assembled, but had been field tested, evaluated and proven with a wide array of field projects having been successfully accomplished. In summary, in only a five-year period, a full ocean engineering operational capability had been developed from concept to completion under CDR Eager’s leadership.


Satisfying Expanding Needs, 1974 - 1993

While the Ocean Facilities Program was solidly established in 1974, it was just commencing a period of expansion and growth. The period commencing in 1974 running through approximately 1992 witnessed significant growth of the OFP in all elements and with all capabilities.

The early successes attained by the constructive interaction of FPO-1 project engineers and UCT’s caused increased interest from existing customers in continuing the relationship. Workload grew both in size and complexity. Emerging Fleet requirements such as the Maritime Prepositioned Ships (MPS) and the Offshore Petroleum Discharge System (OPDS) provided new challenges to be managed by the OFP. These underlying requirements all contributed to significant expansion of the program.


The Program Office at NAVFAC, PC-2, ensured that overall objectives remained in sharp focus with challenges consistently resolved. CDR Donovan was relieved by CDR Osborn in 1977 followed by CDR Wells in 1981. CDR Pete Marshall, CDR John Cherry, and CDR Tony Parisi round out the Program Director assignments over the period. Mr. Herb Herrmann transitioned from NCEL to the Program Office in 1978 providing stability and continuity on all issues through to his move to establish the Navy Seafloor Cable Protection Office in 2008. Dr. Phil Vitale moved from the Project Office to the Program Office in 2002. The office was managed by Tena Lord and, later, Cindy Fleming.

Additional personnel were hired into the project office, FPO-1, eventually totaling forty personnel. This included the personnel providing acquisition, design, construction and maintenance of shore-based hyperbaric systems centralized in a new division, FPO-1H, under Frank Gorman’s leadership.

As highlighted in the previous section, the UCT’s grew to 3 officers and 52 enlisted billets with concurrent action authorized by CNO in 1985 that established both teams as commissioned units of the US Navy, Commanding Officer in charge.

And with dedicated support from the Naval Civil Engineering Lab in Port Hueneme, this period saw the translation of capability deficiencies identified on the earlier projects into capability enhancements.


Substantial growth in quantity, complexity, and customers marked this period.

Atlantic Ranges - Many of the Navy’s ocean facilities support fleet readiness training and weapon system performance assessment. Categorically, these types of facilities represent a substantial portion of Navy ocean facility assets. By their nature, they are also the most difficult to plan, design, and construct to meet facility performance and life cycle cost requirements.

The OFP has had significant underwater construction and installation efforts on many of the ranges.

Navy Atlantic Historic Test and Operating Areas [xxxii]

Navy Underwater Tracking Range at St. Croix, VI - Built by a Navy contractor in the 1960’s, the underwater tracking facilities had suffered damages upon installation and further damages due to a lightning strike at the range facility that managed to get into the undersea cables and seriously damaged the hydrophone tracking arrays installed at 3,000 feet deep. The first lighting damage occurred in 1968. Repairs were made to some of the tracking arrays and to the lightning protection system on shore. The lightning protection system was repaired in 1972-3. The second lightning damage occurred in September 1973 and damaged five of the eleven tracking arrays. Further a submarine operating on the range in May 1973 caused damage to installed systems. FPO-1 was tasked in November 1973 with assessing the damage and planning a repair operation for all underwater arrays. The repair project performed in 1976 recovered the damaged arrays from 3000 feet by hooking into each damaged array, pulling the array to the surface and replacing the structure with a new one. Additionally the new array was redesigned as a foldable array structure that could be safely handled at sea and opened to its 30-foot cube dimension before lowering it to the bottom. Finally lightning protection was improved for the range buildings to prevent further lighting damage to the arrays. The SEACON was used as the construction platform with diver assistance from UCT-1.

Project Classic Thicket was a joint Ministry of Defense, UK and US Navy Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) research project to test more advanced methods in detection of enemy submarines. The operational location for this project was on the Underwater Tracking Range, St. Croix, Virgin Island. The project included installing several magnetic detection arrays suspended in the water column in 3,000 feet of water in precise locations and one magnetic detection system immersed in a cryogenic fluid and placed on the seafloor in about 30 feet of water depth. FPO-1 planning and design with UCT-1 installation.

AUTEC Noise Measurement Array Repair - The Noise Measurement Array was damaged in 1979, FPO-1 was requested to provide SEACON to assist in the repairs of the array.

The repair effort required six days of continuous precision station-keeping in 6,000 feet of water. The upper portion of the array was retrieved, new mechanical and electrical components replaced and tested, and the array reinstalled.

Fleet Operational Readiness Accuracy Check Site (FORAC) - The Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC) tasked FPO-1 with the planning and installation of two FORACS targets at the AUTEC range and one FORACS Target and one SSRNM at St. Croix Underwater Range (UTR) in 1984. The Ocean Construction Platform SEACON was used for both installations with UCT-1 assistance. The Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, built the FORACS and SSRNM arrays.

St. Croix Mooring - The pier at Frederiksted, St. Croix, USVI was used for berthing naval vessels to attach equipment in conjunction with the use of the Underwater Tracking Range (UTR). It was severely damaged by Hurricane Klaus in November 1984, and in 1985 the Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic (COMSUBLANT) tasked CHESDIV FPO-1 and UCT-1 with installation of a mooring in the Frederiksted area to be used while the pier was being repaired.

St. Croix Range Expansion – In 1986 FPO-1 and UCT-1, in support to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIRSYSCOM), installed sixteen hydrophones and two underwater communications systems (UQC) in over 15,000 feet of seawater at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility (AFWTF), St. Croix, USVI. The project expanded the AFWTF underwater tracking range and acoustic ship-to-shore communication system, significantly increasing the tracking range capability. It was the first installation of fleet tracking range hardware at this depth.

East Coast Air Combat Maneuvering Range -In the period 1976-1977, the $13M project (the first Navy ocean military construction (MCON) project) involved the design and construction of four off-shore instrumentation towers in support of the EC/ACMR, which provided the Navy with a unique dimension in fighter-pilot training. The range system provided for the simultaneous tracking of as many as twenty aircraft as they engage in combat/dogfight maneuvers and fire simulated (vice live) electronic missiles. Air combat and escort tactics were developed and evaluated by means of real-time three-dimensional displays of all range activity, while being continually monitored by highly trained ground instructors.

The EC/ACMR Towers are in 83-106 feet of water, 15-32 miles off the coast of Kitty Hawk, NC. The range is located just north of Cape Hatteras, an area so plagued by high winds and storms that it is known as the graveyard of the Atlantic. Environmental conditions anticipated over the 20-year design life of the towers included 62-foot wave heights, 2-3 knot currents, 140 mph winds, and temperatures varying from freezing to 100°F. The required design was without historical precedent – the towers were installed in an area where no previous records of offshore structures existed.

Tactical Air Combat Training Systems Charleston – FY-86 MILCON project P210 ($26.3M) authorized construction of eight towers offshore of Georgia to enable the Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System (TACTS) to accurately monitor and control aircraft during aerial warfare training exercises from sea level to 60,000 feet. TACTS include four major subsystems: Aircraft Instrumentation Subsystem (AIS), Tracking Instrumentation Subsystem (TIS), Control and Computation Subsystem (CCS) and Display and Debriefing Subsystem (DDS).

FPO-1 was responsible for the design and construction of the CTACTS offshore towers, and the Naval Air Systems Command provided the facility requirements. FPO-1 contracted with Brown & Root Development Inc. (B&R) as the prime A-E. B&R used Oceanweather for meteorological and oceanographic work, and McClelland Engineers, Inc. for geophysical and geotechnical work. Also under contract to FPO-1 was Earl and Wright Consulting Engineers, who provided Design Quality Assurance (DQA) for the project.

Pacific Ranges - The NAVFAC Ocean Facilities Program has been engaged with elements of the Pacific test ranges since the mid-1970’s. Cable installations, stabilizations, inspections and repairs have been accomplished under several project efforts.

Navy Pacific Historic Test and Operating Areas[xxxiii]

Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Cable Installations & Repairs

Pt. Mugu Sea Range – The Point Mugu Sea Range was established in 1946 as the Navy's first instrumented missile test sea range. It offers enormous geographic diversity: vast ocean, deep water ports, protected islands within restricted air space. The 36,000 square-mile sea range, which includes San Nicolas Island, a portion of Santa Cruz Island and San Miguel Island, supports both developmental and operational test and evaluation of missiles, free-fall weapons and electronic warfare systems, and fleet training.

PMRF, Hawaii - Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Barking Sands in Hawaii on the western shores of Kauai. It is the world's largest instrumented, multi-dimensional testing and training missile range. US Military and subcontractors favor its relative isolation, ideal year-round tropical climate and encroachment-free environment. PMRF is the only range in the world where submarines, surface ships, aircraft and space vehicles can operate and be tracked simultaneously. There are over 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range (BARSTUR) and over 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace. The base itself covers 2,385 acres. PMRF was originally part of the Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC), a NAWCWD predecessor organization, but was transferred to the Pacific Fleet in 1992 when PMTC transitioned to NAWCWD.[xxxiv]

BARSTUR – The OFP has been actively involved in BARSTUR ocean facilities. Cable inspections, stabilizations, repairs and system expansions and upgrades have been consistently provided by UCT-2 and the Ocean Facilities Project Office (FPO-1 and NFESC) since the mid-1970’s. During the summer of 1985 Chesapeake Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (CHESNAVFACENGCOM) executed the UQC Repair/ Replacement Cable Installation Project at Barking Sands Tactical - - Underwater Range (BARSTUR) Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on the island of Kauai. Hawaii. UCT-2 was tasked by CINCPACFLT as the construction agent.

The Southern California Offshore Anti-Submarine Range (SOAR) is a portion of the Southern California Range Complex, which is used primarily for Fleet training. SOAR is an underwater tracking range with the capability to provide three-dimensional underwater tracking of submarines, practice weapons, and targets, and includes the Shallow Water Training Range, an extension into shallow water of the deeper water range.

In 1984 FPO-1, in support to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIRSYSCOM), installed electronic systems and cable to provide a 100-square mile Anti-Submarine Warfare training range in 4000 feet of sea water west of San Clemente Island. California. Diving support was provided by UCT-2. The range was expanded a few years later.

SOSUS - One of the first assignments for the UCT’s was to be on call for emergency operational repair of Undersea Surveillance cables where they transition the sea/shore interface. The cables are most vulnerable where they come ashore because of fishing activities and harsh environmental conditions. The Undersea Surveillance System was known as the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS), later transitioning into the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS,) and was a highly classified system especially where the cables came ashore. These systems were located all over the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean area so being able to deploy to one of these sites on a moment’s notice required a major planning effort to move the team and all their needed equipment to perform a repair operation. “Light and highly mobile” was a mission-essential requirement for the UCT’s in support of the IUSS program.

Linear Chair –A magnetic range was designed by FPO-1 and installed for David Taylor Naval Surface Warfare Center in 60 feet deep off Dania Pier at Fort Lauderdale, FL in 1979. The project’s purpose was to determine if the newly designed Trident submarines would need degaussing coils or could get by with standard de-perming techniques. The installation method was devised by NCEL, and constructed by FPO-1, NCEL with UCT diver support. Installation was conducted from OCP SEACON. There was also a planned deep-water array in St Croix, which was subsequently cancelled after USS OHIO was evaluated at the Linear Chair range and confirmed that degaussing coils were not needed.

Waterborne Intrusion Detection Systems (WIDS) - Waterborne protections systems for Navy ships while in the refit facilities and pier-side are critically needed. FPO-1 was tasked with investigating alternatives for this security challenge. The initial tasks surrounded facilities associated with the Trident submarine force and were focused at the Hood Canal and Bangor Submarine Facility. FPO-1 first made an extensive survey of the environmental and facility conditions at the Hood Canal site in 1976-7. Based on these data, FPO-1 recommended the best state-of-the-art physical barrier technology to be applied to the Refit facility. The recommendations are also applicable to other naval home ports and installed ocean facilities.

Lighthouse Automation and Modernization Program for USCG - The Coast Guard initiated the Lighthouse Automation and Modernization Program (LAMP) in 1968. LAMP was designed to accelerate and standardize the remaining lighthouses for automation and to standardize the equipment at those previously automated. In 1975 FPO-1 was assigned responsibility for assisting by providing underwater power cabling. Wolf Trap and Smith Point Lighthouse in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia and Cape Flattery Lighthouses on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington state are examples of installations completed by UCT-1 and UCT-2.

Sewer Outfalls - Typical sewer outfalls for the ocean were designed of concrete pipe connected and laid on the seafloor to take the sewer effluent out to sea a sufficient distance for it to disperse. However, in areas where the onshore terrain was very steep and subject to slump conditions and where the surf conditions were very rough, using concrete pipe was out of the question. There needed to be a better solution. The FPO-1 project office had two sewer outfall projects that had demanding design conditions. One was at Centerville, CA in 1975 which had strict environmental conditions to meet and the other at La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy performed in 1974. Both UCT’s performed the field installations.

Arctic Support – From early in the ‘70’s, UCT-2 had been assisting the Arctic Submarine Lab with support in the Arctic. Early support typically involved the inspection, maintenance and repair of installed sensor systems. But as national interest in the Arctic grew, UCT involvement in the program also grew into participation in ICE Exercises. The continuing engagement in the Arctic eventually resulted in the development of an Arctic Table of Allowance (camp support and operational tool kits) for independent operations by the UCT’s in the Arctic environment. (See Projects and Capabilities tabs).

SEACON II – SEACON II was a major undersea construction experiment conducted from 1974- 1976, whose primary goal was the measurement of a complex, three-dimensional cable structure's steady-state response to ocean currents, and the use of these measurements to validate analytical design models. A secondary goal was to provide a demonstration and critical evaluation of recent developments in ocean engineering technology required to site, design, implant, and operate fixed subsea cable structures. The SEACON II structure consisted of a delta-shaped module tethered by three mooring legs in 2,900 feet of water. The top of the structure was positioned approximately 500 feet below the surface. The mooring legs were 4,080 feet long, with each arm of the delta 1,000 feet long. Experimental explosive anchors embedded two of the legs, while a 12,500-pound clump anchor containing a radioisotope thermoelectric generator held the third leg. The entire structure was heavily instrumented to collect current profile data and position data. The data was used to validate the computer program DESADE.

Mooring Installations – The OFP and the supporting organizational components became the natural field operational installations for the employment of the Mooring Design Manual, DM- 26 world-wide. Designs were prepared by FPO-1 and NCEL, while field installations were performed by FPO-1, the UCT’s and various Navy and contractor support teams. A wide range of moorings by design, anchor type, ship requirements and locations have been accomplished since inception. Three of the larger efforts included:

Diego Garcia - In March 1980, FPO-1 of the Chesapeake Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, was tasked to provide engineering and construction support for the design, procurement and installation of eleven fleet moorings in the lagoon at Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT.) The moorings themselves were original in their design and are described in terms of component size. Seventeen mooring buoys and 88 legs of chain were installed to produce these eleven moorings.

The propellant embedment anchor (PEA) developed by the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory was selected for use with these moorings due to its proven success on three previous buoy installation projects in the Diego Garcia lagoon. Traditional drag weight anchors were not determined to be the best choice for long-term anchoring of moorings in the lagoon's coralline seafloor. This represents the largest use of propellant embedment anchors up to that date.

The construction team assembled to perform the installation consisted of military, civil service and contractor personnel from the following organizations:

  • Chesapeake Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Washington, D. C.
  • Public Works Center, San Diego, CA
  • Public Works Center, Subic Bay, R. P. I.
  • Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory, Port Hueneme, CA
  • UCT-2, Port Hueneme, CA
  • Tracor Marine, Inc., Fort Lauderdale, FLA

The Navy's Ocean Construction Platform (OCP), SEACON, was selected over other various military and commercial platforms considered to install these moorings. OCP SEACON is homeported at St. Julien's Creek, VA and was towed to and from Diego Garcia to perform this work.

The entire project was successful in all respects, within cost and schedule, and technically sound. Installation was completed in March 1981.

Guam – In September 1979, PACDIV requested that CHESDIV (FPO-1) design a Modified Class CC Mooring for PWC Guam. The installation was to be performed by PWC Guam. After completing design, FPO-l sent Mr. Tom O'Boyle to Guam as the on-site design representative during the installation.

Navy Nuclear Power Training Unit Mooring at Charleston, S.C. - FPO-1 was tasked with design and installation of an operational/survival mooring for a submarine at Pier X-Ray at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) in Charleston, SC. The submarine was used by NPTU for training and had an active reactor. The purposes of the mooring were to minimize motions of the vessel during operational conditions, and safely restrain it during survival conditions (hurricanes, tornadoes, dam break, earthquakes, etc.).

Fleet Mooring Inspections – The first effort to perform a detailed quantitative underwater inspection of fleet moorings was made by UCT-2 assisting the Navy Civil Engineering Laboratory (NCEL) at Apra Harbor, Guam, in January of 1977. Inspection procedures and forms were developed to enable UCT-2 divers to perform the hardware inspection and record the data.

Further improvements of the procedures, tools, and documentation was during mooring inspections in San Diego, conducted by UCT-2 with final report prepared by NCEL. The Ocean Engineering and Construction Office (FPO-1) of Chesapeake Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command was given the lead to establish uniform procedures, criteria, and type specifications for mooring inspection and condition assessment for updating of The Fleet Mooring Maintenance Manual, MO-124.

Diego Garcia Diving Support – UCT-2 provided continuous diving support to the Naval Construction Forces (NCF) projects on Diego Garcia. Commencing in April 1974, UCT-2 had a rotating detachment of five divers assigned to island support through to June 1980, excluding the period from May 1976 to June 1977. This was the longest presence of any NCF unit on the island. Most of the effort from June 1977 to June 1980 was spent assisting the Pier Team on construction of the POL pier.

Diego Garcia POL Pier Mooring Buoys - In 1980, a team composed of personnel from FPO-1, NCEL, UCT-2 and support from ACU One and on-island NMCB assets installed two high capacity, taut leg mooring buoys 175’ north and south of the POL pier. The buoys were meant to provide mooring extensions to allow vessels larger than the length of the pier ample room to tie up.

Each buoy was assembled with five propellant embedment anchors attached to chain assemblies coming together at the buoy. Final buoy mooring capacity was designed for approximately 250 kips of resistance. On-island installation was successfully completed in a 90- day window from March through early June 1980.

Offshore Petroleum Discharge System (OPDS) –During amphibious and expeditionary operations, the OPDS provides 1.2 million gallons per 20-hour day of refined petroleum to the beach, from a tanker moored four miles offshore. The U.S. Navy is responsible for installing the

OPDS and ship-to-shore pipeline to the high-water mark. The OPDS is composed of the following subsystems:

  • Commercial tanker with conduit (hoses) handling equipment.
  • Conduit system of four nautical miles of flexible, elastomeric, steel reinforced, float/sink conduit on eight large storage reels.
  • Single Anchor Leg Mooring
  • Converted Side Loadable Warping Tugs
  • Beach Termination Units

Since the mid-80’s, the UCTs have been tasked with assisting the Amphibious Construction Battalion and Naval Beach Group elements to provide diving support for OPDS installation.

David Grant Medical Center (DGMC) is the U.S. Air Force’s largest medical center in the continental United States and serves military beneficiaries throughout eight western states. The present state-of-the-art medical center opened its doors on December 19, 1988, at a cost of $193 million utilizing a design-build contract. Included under specialized services, DGMC provides hyperbaric medicine support for VA San Francisco and VA Palo Alto Medical Centers. Overall construction administration was provided by NAVFAC under interservice operating agreements. The design and construction of the hyperbaric facilities were performed by FPO-1H with field construction managed by OFP officers. Lt McClay was the first AROICC, followed by LT Rodgers as the project completed.

Capability Development

Evaluation of earlier projects had exposed deficiencies in procedures and equipment. Annually FPO-1 developed recommended requirements for research which were forwarded to FAC -03 and to NCEL. The resulting issues were presented to OPNAV for funding leading to specific resolutions. The resulting improvements in process, procedures and equipment made their way into this period of OFP growth.

Criteria and Methods – Working in the ocean environment whether on the surface, underwater nearshore or in deep ocean, requires modification of the engineering and construction processes. An early initiative of FPO-1 was the establishment of appropriate criteria and methods for ocean facility projects. The program was initiated in FY 74 to package the existing and evolving knowledge of ocean facilities engineering into manuals and handbooks to be used by ocean facilities engineers. The program was to compare, evaluate, and document standard engineering, criteria and methods based upon existing practices in specific support of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command's (NAVFAC) mission to design, construct and maintain fixed ocean facilities. The goal was to minimize unnecessary variance and overdesign, therefore maximizing reliability, safety and economy in meeting ocean engineering and construction requirements.

Ocean Construction Equipment Inventory (OCEI) – The Navy authorized the procurement of the Ocean Construction Equipment Inventory in 1974 to provide the Naval Construction Force with the equipment assets required to perform responsive, efficient and safe ocean construction. The inventory contained specialized ocean construction equipment and high usage ocean facilities components suitable for roll-on, roll-off use on a variety of projects.

SEACON - Working at sea doing construction operations required the need for a large stable platform to support all the project material, construction equipment and personnel that could be reliably positioned above the construction site. In 1972, that ship did not exist in the Navy inventory. Ocean construction projects in the early 1970’s had to be done from whatever seagoing Navy craft that was available. This added risk to the success of a project and to the personnel involved. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) agreed with the need to design, develop and acquire an Ocean Construction Platform and the design and construction began in 1974 for SEACON. The platform was delivered in 1976. SEACON was the largest piece of equipment in the OCEI.

Diver Tools – As the UCTs first commenced operations, they used pneumatic power tools for underwater work. However the pressure differentials caused by underwater work decreased tool efficiency. To counter this pressure-related impact, pneumatic tools were quickly replaced by hydraulic oil tools to increase efficiency. Unfortunately, the hydraulic systems had the disadvantages of oil leaks from the system causing environmental contamination, posing a fire hazard, and threatening personal safety. In addition, the unwieldy dual transmission hoses burdened the diver, particularly in a current or surge. In 1976, NCEL commenced development of a Multi-Function Tool System (MFTS) hydraulic tool system for diver operation using seawater instead of oil as the power transmission fluid. The open loop seawater hydraulic system provides the diver with easy to handle, single hose tools that are compatible with their environment. The system has all the benefits of oil hydraulic systems, and yet it does not present the health or fire hazard present from conventional hydraulic oil systems. The MFTS seawater transmission system replaced existing oil hydraulic tool systems. The tools included in the MFTS development were a rotary disk tool, a rotary impact tool and a bandsaw.

Arctic TOA – From early in the ‘70’s, UCT-2 had been assisting the Arctic Submarine Lab with support in the Arctic. Early support typically involved the inspection, maintenance and repair of installed sensor systems. Logistic support for these operations was supplied “by others,” typically a US Coast Guard Icebreaker and contractors from the Polar Research Lab and the University of Washington. But as national interest in the Arctic grew, UCT involvement in the program also grew into participation in Arctic ICE Exercises. The continuing engagement in the Arctic eventually resulted in a request for support and development of an Arctic Table of Allowance (TOA) (camp support and operational tool kits) for independent operations by the UCT’s in the Arctic environment. OPNAV N4 supported the concept, funded the project and the Arctic TOA was established.

Transportable Recompression Chamber System (TRCS) – The OFP was instrumental in the identification, development, test, evaluation and approval of a new, lighter recompression system. This effort conducted over several years, succeeded in fielding a double-lock recompression chamber that was both easily transportable and adaptable. This resulted in a TRCS that was approximately 75% smaller in weight and bulk from the standard previous system. More importantly, the smaller weight and footprint allowed easier deployment capability and ensured access for on-station treatment of diving accidents in any operational environment.

Slant Drilling - In 1992 a series of horizontal drilling tests were conducted by the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory (NCEL) at the Naval Weapons Center (NWC) China Lake, California, and at NCEL, Port Hueneme, California, under the sponsorship of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). The purpose of these tests was to demonstrate the operational capability of a horizontal drilling system (HDS) - a prototype system using high-pressure water as the drilling medium. Test results have provided preliminary confirmation of drill string steerability and drill string friction criteria under limited conditions. The program was established to extend existing commercial horizontal drilling technology to a (horizontal) distance of 25,000 feet for the purpose of enhancing shore landing cable protection.

Program Modifications

Organizational Realignment

The Naval Facilities Engineering System Command’s mission is to be: “The Naval Shore Facilities, Base Operating Support, and Expeditionary Engineering Systems Command that delivers life-cycle technical and acquisition solutions aligned to Fleet and Marine Corps priorities.”[xxxv]

As Fleet and Marine Corps priorities are adjusted to address changing world requirements, so, too must NAVFAC capabilities adjust to respond. And as an organizational element of NAVFAC, the OFP will also adjust. Such was the case beginning in 1992.

The 1993 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended closure of NCEL and realignment of necessary functions, personnel, equipment, and support at the Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme. In anticipation of the BRAC decision, NAVFAC tasked CAPT Dave Nash with developing a plan for the transition. He established a team that included members from NAVFAC, NCEL, the Naval Energy and Environmental Support Activity (NEESA) and others. FAC 07 (the new designation for the OFP Program Office formerly PC-2) was not originally represented but pushed for involvement and became a member. Over approximately a year, the team developed the organizational structure that became the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center (NFESC), which was formally established in 1993. Administratively, FPO-1 and the NCEL Ocean Engineering Department merged into the new NFESC Ocean Engineering Department, with FPO-1 becoming the NFESC East Coast Detachment. The FAC 07 position (OFP Director) became the Ocean Engineering Department Head for NFESC, with additional duty to NAVFAC, while also assigned as OIC of the NFESC East Coast Detachment.

The NFESC Ocean Engineering Deputy Department Head was located in Port Hueneme. At one point, there was a push to physically relocate the NFESC East Coast Detachment (FPO-1) to Port Hueneme over three years, but FAC 07 argued that such a move would cripple the capability and the effort was abandoned. Over the next several years, the NFESC East Coast detachment primarily focused on project planning and execution, with the Port Hueneme group on research and development. This organizational structure continued until 2012.

Facing Losses

While achieving significant success with the establishment and growth of the Ocean Facilities Program from 1968 into the 1980’s, there were reminders of the ever-present dangers facing members of the military diving community.

In 1974, while working on an underwater cable repair with UCT-1 in the Azores, EOCA (DV) Ernest P. Bellavita made an emergency ascent to the surface, striking an anchor line and sustaining an air embolism. Despite recompression treatment on-site that continued with transfer to Bethesda Naval Hospital and Naval Medical Research Institute, where he underwent further pressurization to try and save him, he succumbed to his injuries.

On June 14, 1985, SW2 (DV) Robert D. Stethem was returning with members of the UCT-1 detachment from an assignment in Nea Makri, Greece aboard TWA Flight 847 when it was hijacked by criminals of the Lebanese pro-Iranian terrorist organization Hezbollah. He was singled out as a U.S. Sailor and was beaten by the terrorists in an attempt to have their demands met. Robert Stethem would not aid the terrorists in meeting their demands by courageously refusing to cry out, which in turn cost him his life as he was shot and killed. Petty Officer Stethem was posthumously promoted to honorary Master Chief Constructionman by the Master Chief of the Navy and awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for heroism.

The terrorists held 39 people hostage for 17 days, including five other members of the UCT-1 detachment, demanding the release of 766 Lebanese and Palestinian terrorists held by Israel. The returning underwater construction technicians received Navy Commendation Medals for their performance while held prisoner, and all six were awarded the Prisoner of War Medal.

The USS Stethem (DDG-63) is named for Petty Officer Stethem. Its callsign is Steelworker, a title the crew members call each other. Its motto, Steadfast and Courageous, is taken from the citation of his Bronze Star Medal. The ship was commissioned in 1995 at Port Hueneme, California, with many of Bobby’s shipmates and fellow Underwater Construction Technicians in attendance. The ship periodically hosts his family, and memorial ceremonies on the anniversary of his death. They proudly display a Mk V dive helmet on their quarterdeck.

In 1992, UCT Two deployed to install rock bolts to a cable system in the Bering Strait. Seabees with UCT Two drilled holes using an underwater rock drill and then inserted bolts to secure the cable to the seafloor. While two divers were moving the equipment to another location, the rock drill was inadvertently energized and caught in diver EO3(DV) David A. McInerney's personal equipment. Despite efforts to free Petty Officer McInerny, he succomed to the entrapment by the time the system was shut down and he was freed. The Navy's follow-up investigation led to several tool design changes and the requirement for an available, reliable shut-off valve for additional diver control.

It is a reminder that while background and training are meant to provide confidence and experience, there will never be absolute immunity from the dangers of building, diving and fighting in the US Navy.

Adaptability and Innovation

Terrorism, Wars and Engagement, 1993 – 2012

“Over decades, the Cold War had become the normal state of affairs. Thousands of people, in uniform and out, had assumed that their Cold War roles would continue indefinitely. It was difficult for them to understand that 1992–1993 was like 1945–1946. The war—and the Cold War had been a real war—was over. It was time for thousands of people to do something else.”[xxxvi]

To answer the question of “What now?” DOD performed a bottom-up review—an assessment of U.S. defense needs in the post-Cold War security environment.

“The Bottom-Up Review defined the nation’s national strategy as one of “Engagement, Prevention, and Partnership.” “Engagement” meant not allowing the United States to withdraw politically, economically, and diplomatically from the post–Cold War world, especially from interactions with the nations of the former Warsaw Pact. “Prevention” meant using U.S. military force carefully but quickly to prevent political or ethnic conflicts from becoming military ones. “Partnership” meant working with other governments—especially established allies—to regulate what former President George H. W. Bush had called the “new world order.” To make “prevention” a reality, the review argued that the United States had to “maintain sufficient military power to be able to win two major regional conflicts that occur nearly simultaneously.” [xxxvii]

With this DOD approach to address the new reality, the Ocean Facilities Program found itself well positioned to continue mission support while responding to engagement, prevention and partnership. As the United States supported NATO in its discussions with former Warsaw Pact countries, inspections, reviews and repairs of all infrastructure were essential. Waterfront and near-shore efforts often fell to OFP for assistance. Continuing efforts and upgrades on DOD ranges and test areas were vital to answer both engagement and prevention scenarios and to ensure the readiness of all combat forces. And what better way to establish and strengthen partnerships than with the natural nation building expertise provided by the Naval Construction Force, through the UCT’s.

The Ocean Facilities Program continued with the associated Directors double-hatted with a NAVFAC designation for Program direction and as OIC of the NFESC Ocean Engineering Department East Coast Detachment. Directors during this period included CDR Steve Duba, CDR Karin Lynn, and CDR Ron Ungaro. 


South Toto Acoustic Measurement Facility (STAFAC) - This four-year program, beginning in FY05, replaced the existing surface ship deployed submarine radiated noise, high gain measurement systems with a fixed, bottom mounted, shore connected acoustic system installed in the same area, offshore Andros Island Bahamas in an area named the tongue of the ocean (Toto). The main system infrastructure was installed in April through May of 2008, and the acoustic sensors were installed in July – August 2008. The Mechanical, Mooring, and Installation (MMI) Integrated Project Team, team was comprised of personnel from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, RI, Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center (NFESC) in Port Hueneme California, and Sound & Sea Technology (SST) in Ventura California tasked to design, manufacture and install the entire system at AUTEC, Andros Island Bahamas.

Capability Development

Seafloor Cable Protection Office - The Naval Seafloor Cable Protection Office (NSCPO) was created in response to an increasing number of cable breaks. During the late 90's, the Navy was averaging 10 breaks per year. In 2000, Naval Facilities Engineering Command stood up the Naval Seafloor Cable Protection Office. NSCPO is now the "front office" point of contact for all Navy and DoD seafloor cables. As such, the NSCPO participates in national and international forums with the commercial undersea cable industry and other government agencies. In addition, NSCPO represents the interests of all Navy cable owners in policy discussions with all levels of United States government. This approach allows the Navy to present a single, unified, and coordinated approach to cable protection and policy issues.



[i] surveillance-system-sosus/

[ii] G.E. Weir, USN Historical Center, The American Sound Surveillance System: Using the Ocean to Hunt Soviet Submarines, 1950-1961, International Journal of Naval History, August 2006, Volume 5, Number 2

[iii] Capt. C.A. Bartholomew, USN, Mud, Muscle, and Miracles, p. 374

[iv] Ibid, p.377

[v] Ibid, p.378

[vi]NAVFAC P-1 billet assignments

[vii] Report on Study Topic 68-1: Plan for Definition of NAVFAC/NCF Role in Ocean Engineering

[viii] LCDR Neil Monney (NAVMAT) presentation at Proceedings of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Ocean Engineering Conference September 1969

[ix] This reorganization eliminated the traditional bilinear organization under which the Chief of Naval Operations and the chiefs of the various bureaus reported separately to the Secretary of the Navy. The result was a unilinear organization, under which the systems commands reported to the Chief of Naval Material, who in turn reported to the CNO. In the mid-1980s the Naval Material Command was disestablished; and NAVFAC began reporting directly to the Chief of Naval Operations.

[x] NAVMAT Notice 5460 dtd May 1966

[xi] OPNAV Note 5450 dtd Nov 1967

[xii] Report on Study Topic 68-1: Plan for Definition of NAVFAC/NCF Role in Ocean Engineering

[xiii] Proceedings of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Ocean Engineering Conference September 1969, App C, pp 14-15

[xiv] NAVFAC P-1 Billet Assignments

[xv] Proceedings of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Ocean Engineering Conference September 1969, p 29

[xvi] The Navy Civil Engineer, January 1970

[xvii] Reminiscences of CAPT Jim Osborn

[xviii] LCDR Tracy Tucker, Navy Civil Engineer Magazine, Summer 1970, p7

[xix] LCDR Kevin Gross, Navy Civil Engineer Magazine, Winter 1987-88, pp28-30

[xx] NAVFAC Summary Report 68-1, Table II.B.1

[xxi] NAVFAC ltrs of Aug 29, 1969, and December 10, 1969

[xxii] Commander 31st NCR ltr of December 17, 1969

[xxiii] Both officers had prior assignments at the NCEL and LTJG Stevenson had participated in Tektite 1 operations earlier in 1969.

[xxiv] LCDR Kevin Gross, Navy Civil Engineer Magazine, Winter 1987-88, pp28-30

[xxv] The UDT skill set was subsequently incorporated into the Special Forces SEAL missions and the UDTs as so titled were disbanded in 1983.

[xxvi] Project Tektite I and the Birth of the Underwater Construction Teams, by Dr. Frank A Blazich, Historian, US Navy Seabee Museum as published in The Seabee Magazine, July 17, 2014

[xxvii] ANCECO Newsletter of December 1973

[xxviii] LCDR Kevin Gross, Navy Civil Engineer Magazine, Winter 1987-88, pp28-30

[xxix] CEC Biweekly March 1973

[xxx] Reminiscences of CAPT Mike Weyler

[xxxi] NAVFAC P-1 Billet Assignments

[xxxii] Chart from

[xxxiii] Ibid

[xxxiv] From Naval Region Hawaii website: Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (

[xxxv] NAVFAC Strategic Design 2.0

[xxxvi] History of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1915-2015, Thomas C. Hone and Curtis A. Utz, p394

[xxxvii] Ibid, p404

Published: Mon Apr 15 14:40:50 EDT 2024