By Dianna Cahn
Copyright 2014 The Virginian-Pilot
Editor’s note: This story was based on court testimony, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with unit members, witnesses and lawyers.
The pond at Aberdeen Proving Ground was awash in the sounds of a military dive site: the thud of heavy equipment on a floating barge, air cylinders clanging against one another, the muffled tones and beeps of hand-held radio communications.
Navy divers readied their dry suits, prepping for a day of diving in 40-degree water on that February morning in Maryland.
The sailors were at the Army ordnance testing site for a series of evaluation dives ahead of deployment. The first dive of the day, to retrieve lost weapons, was under way in shallow water outside the main pond.
The real excitement was still to come: a 150-foot dive into the center of the pond to locate a downed helicopter.
This is what Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 trained for – diving deep to locate and retrieve wreckage. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was something most of them were eager to do, a job they would actually be called on to perform.
They didn’t know that every decision they made on the pond that afternoon of Feb. 26, 2013, would later be scrutinized, every action and reaction analyzed. That they would replay those 24 agonizing minutes of increasing desperation over and over again, hoping every time for a different outcome.