During the formative years leading up to the Branch's baptism of fire in '67, CDs developed their "can do easy" attitude performing a diverse range of diving, EOD and salvage related tasks. With obsolete equipment and limited support from the Naval command structure, CDs had to develop and hone their skills 'in house'. This necessitated an extreme level of improvisation which led to developing skills and breeding an independence in the Clearance Diving Branch which makes the Australian Clearance Diver of today quite unique in the world of Military Diving.
Service in Vietnam changed the way RAN CDs saw themselves and perhaps more importantly, highly complimentary reports from our American allies began to open the eyes of senior RAN officers to the high level of professionalism of the Aussie CD. They had worked alongside the largest and most powerful Military force in the world and fought against the world's most committed and resourceful guerrilla soldier. And in this company they were not found wanting.
The Viet Cong (VC) put a price on their heads and the US increasingly used them in roles outside their core training - a testament to their skills and growing professionalism.
After Vietnam the role of the Branch and the Teams became more clearly defined. As well as serving with the fleet in sea-going berths, there are now two AUSCD Teams. AUSCDT-One, based in Sydney, and AUSCDT-Four, based near Perth, in Western Australia.
Each team is a self-contained, highly mobile unit consisting of about sixty personnel. Within each team there are three distinct elements: Underwater Battle Damage Repair (UBDR); Mine Counter-Measures (MCM); and Maritime Tactical Operations (MTO), with Team members receiving instruction in all three disciplines.
UBDR are trained in the use of pneumatic andhydra ulic tools and carry out salvage and emergency repair work in wartime situations. MCM is concerned with the disposal of disarming of mines and explosive ordnance, including IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) as favoured by terrorists. MTO carry out amphibious reconnaissance and are skilled in Escape and Evasion Techniques.
Today's CDs still carry out all of the original roles formulated back in 1951. Since the early '80s they have continued to expand their commitment to the highly specialised 'Maritime Tactical Operations' role.
"Whenever Clearance Divers are deployed overseas in a combat zone, they form a unit called Clearance Diving Team 3, or CDT3. In March and April 1991, in the aftermath of the First Gulf War, CDT3 went into action for the first time since Vietnam. Twenty-three Australian divers cleared several Kuwaiti ports, a naval base, and a number of beaches.
From March to May 2003, 32 divers were deployed to the same region, this time operating in Iraq itself. One of their early tasks was clearing the port of Umm Qasr. Working in muddy water with zero visibility, they located a sunken minelayer with live sea-mines aboard. They also worked on land, checking port buildings for booby-traps and helping British commandos clear unexploded mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades from the town.
Later they moved north to clear another port at Khawr Az Zubayr and, demonstrating their versatility, also conducted mine clearance patrols on the Al Faw peninsula, along the shores of the Khawr 'Abd Allah waterway. Finally, the divers helped clear sea-mines, anti-submarine mortars, and other ordnance from a major storage area attached to the Iraqi navy's mine warfare school."