Info for potential Mine Clearance Divers (MCD)

Discussion in 'Joining Up - Royal Navy Recruiting' started by Renavon, Dec 7, 2011.

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  1. (I got a bit carried away, so it's quite a bit to take in, but i thought the more the better. If anyone can think of a way to skip down the page to different sections, that would be useful)

    So, after posting a few questions about the subject and with a few very helpful replies from members of the forum, people starting emailing me asking how the process was going and that they were wishing to join as well in the near future. I had learned quite a bit from searching around but i one of my neighbors said he could introduce me to some staff at get possibly even a tour in the diving base at Horsea Island. I was going to email the people with the information i learned but i figured i might as well just make a thread so that anyone going on the forums wondering about the career path could take a look and get some extra information.

    Please note that this is just what i heard while there and everything might not be 100% correct and completely wrong. If there's anything wrong, please send me a message or leave a reply to tell me.

    So i arrived this morning at the naval base on Horsea Island at about 08.30, driving past a huge array of empty mines by the side of the road. I walked past the gym and saw a few people talking, and was later explained by an officer that "They think their bodies are havens, i swear they spend most of the day in there". We came into the building and the first person i saw was coated in gel... The stereotypes seemed to be pulling through so far.... (Luckily, i saw no one else wearing gel for the rest of the day)

    I spent most of the day talking to MCDOs (Mine Clearance Diving Officers, more on that later). They were explaining their career path and the opportunities for ranks and commissioned officers. Ill explain MCDOs later, but basically he said that if you want to dive for a living, go for ranks. If you want to be an officer and enjoy diving then go MCDO, but their warfare officer duties come first.

    By some kind of fantastic coincidence there was a a briefing for the naval media personnel would needed to learn more about the branch as they felt it needed to be more recognised. By the way, the diving base isn't just for naval, the army also use it i believe, and during my stay they blew up 3 different bombs for practice and all of them shook the building.

    So, i learnt a lot just by watching this, and ill list everything i learnt below.

    So first off, the recruitment process. (This will be mainly for ranks, but ill stick a little bit about the officer side at the bottom)

    You'll do your recruitment test (RT) after applying and filling out a huge form.
    I did mine last week and passed with 60% i believe, but i'm afraid i'm not sure what the border is for it, you'll have to ask your AFCO.

    After that you'll have your selection interview (formal)

    Then you'll have a medical and an eye test

    Then i believe you also have to have a diving medical (Which only lasts for 12 months, so this may be later in the process)

    Then you'll have your Pre joining Fitness Test (PJFT) which i've heard is a treadmill run for a mile and a half in 12.30, then a one minute break and then another mile and a half in under 10.30. From what i've been told, they will set it to the minimum amount needed at the start, after that you are free to slow it down or speed it up however you want.

    Then you will have another interview about specialist branches, auditions, and tests if required

    Then security checks and references

    This process i've been told takes about a year to a year and a half. The actual wait time to either start training, is apparently 3 years at the moment.

    After the security checks and references, you should get your PEDA date, which i'm sure you've all read about, if not, do it.

    Then if you pass, you'll have a date for training which is 20 weeks long comprising of 10 phases.

    Phase 1: Basic air diving to nine metres

    Phase 2: Surface supplied diving to complete underwater maintenance and repair, battle damage and repair

    Phase 3: Underwater search operations

    Phase 4: Mixed gas diving

    Phase 5: Recompression chamber operation/attendant training

    Phase 6: Deep diving certification

    Phase 7: Diving equipment maintenance

    Phase 8: Bomb and mine disposal

    Phase 9: HSE Level Two First Aid

    Phase 10: RYA boat accreditation

    Equipment used by the MCDs

    Im sure there are other bits of equipment, or others used by specialist forces but these are the ones i was showed.

    The obvious Drysuit, gloves, fins and a hood if its cold enough.

    Full Face mask with the breathing piece built in. It has two tubes coming out, one for inhaling and one for exhaling. (As shown below)


    Or a mask and breathing piece can be seperate (As shown below)


    Other normal diving kit.

    A Rebreather. This is some remarkable kit, i was told that generally a diver would have a rebreather on his back, with two 3L tanks of compressed air on either side. Normally 6 litres altogether would last you about half an hour maybe? (Of course depending at what bar the air was compressed to) But a rebreather not only removes any bubbles coming out of the kit, but also removes the carbon dioxide from your exhaling breath and recycles the oxygen meaning that 6 litres can last you for 8 hours instead of 30 minutes. Apparently this kit overall costs about 50 grand, so its not cheap....

    Clearance equipment: Not exactly sure what this would entail, it could be anything i guess from explosives to clippers... I was showed a piece of kit for removing a fuse from a small explosive. You clamped it on to the end, then place to 50 cal cartridges either side in the slots, then set them off. The idea being that the cartridges would fire and spin the clamp spinning off the end with the fuse in it quicker than it could explode.

    Portable Sonar: This is only used by certain teams but this is used for locating mines underwater in poor and good visibility. Its equipped with GPS so you can find your target.

    All divers apparently also wear a combat vest, equipped with survival gear in case they cannot be picked up and have to go through foreign territory. This could include:

    A Radio
    First aid
    9mm Pistol
    And so on

    Your career path as a MCD

    So, i'm not exactly sure on the first part of this i'm afraid so please do correct if i'm wrong.

    You'll start off on a minehunter for a year and a half going around the UK or maybe to other countries (Not sure) Your job of course being to clear old and current mines if it cannot be done by robots. This could include blowing them up.

    After the year and a half, you will have 3 years shore side assiting with any internal affairs (For the london olympics, there will of course be worries about terrorism so MCDs may be sweeping the Thames etc) This could also be clearing current and WW2 mines from around the area. There are still tons about, the figures for 2011 were i think nearly 300 call outs for EODs (Normal conventional mines) and nearly 30 for IEDs (Improvised explosive devices, for example of bottle of petrol with some gun powder on a box next to it). So it's not like they don't get any action in the UK based teams.

    After that (Again i'm not sure if this is the correct order) you will move into different sectors. This is not your choice which sectors you can be put in, but you can make your preference known. Although you don't just go into one unit, you can be used in any of the units and most divers will have done them all in their career.

    There are three different types of units for the royal navy that i know of. FDU1, FDU2 and FDU3. There were other letters that i saw, but i can't remember the difference.

    FDU1. Now i posted a question a little while ago asking about combat operations, well....This is it.

    Fleet Diving Unit 1 are the Royal Navy's Maritime Counter Terrorism team. You work with all manner of different teams, including the SAS and the SBS. Its your job to clear IEDs and OEDs out of the path quickly and safely for the special forces to continue a raid or another job etc. This can be at sea on ships, oil rigs etc or on land. You will be specially trained and you will work and train along side many different special forces teams. Due to the rarity of this job, they don't need a lot of these divers, and i've heard they work in teams of 5 or 10. There was a map showing the different locations of the diving teams, and there were about 7-10 different FDU2 groups, but only 1 FDU1 group around.

    You will be trained to enter the target by 3 means, parachute, from a submarine, and by boat.


    FDU2 is the most common unit in the MCD world, or so i've heard. They work on bases and boats keeping the area clear of mines. They are only trained in shallow water disposal diving which is up to 24m. They can also work with the marines before assaults they would go into the targeted area checking for mines using portable sonar equipment and also check on land going up the beach etc if possible.They use the latest technologies include underwater vehicles to get to their location as quick as possible and can be deployed immediately at any time.


    FDU3 provides maritime protection searching ships hulls and ports around the world. They will operate up to 60m and are highly trained in search tactics for this depth. They are also involved in mine investigation. Apparently, you'll have a certain way of diffusing each type of mine, but if you havn't seen this type before, they will work with other personnel to find a way to diffuse or clear the explosive.

    They are highly qualified in EOD and IED mines and explosives and will not only be used in water but there are some out in Afghanistan supporting the remaining troops.

    They can also be trained in chemical bombs.

    In the UK there are different Diving groups. The northern diving group and the southern. (NDG and SDG)

    SDG1 will be based in Portsmouth and will take responsibility for the bottom right hand side of the UK, including airports and ports. On a map, slice the UK in half vertically...Then slice it in half horizontally in the middle. They will occupy the bottom right. SDG2 based in Plymouth will control the bottom left. NDG1 and 2 will occupy the whole of the north of the UK.

    I've been told by a member of the forums that your first job on a minehunter at sea, you'll wonder why you ever went to all the trouble, but once its all over and you get put into your teams, you'll have the time of your life.

    MCDO (Mine Clearance Diver Officer)

    People applying for an MCDO will do 6 years total doing training, and doing their job as a warfare officer controlling ships etc. After that they can specialise into many different areas including diving (Again, its not your choice but you can say your preference) If you specialise in diving, you'll do your training as any other rank would do and then be in charge of the different teams. The difference is of course better pay, a better rank but you don't do much diving. Where as ranks i'm told are nearly constantly in the water. So, its a preference thing i guess.

    If you join as an officer who graduated form uni, you get about 10 grand more a year to begin with than an officer who didn't. Although, by the time someone has spent 2-3 years at uni, the officer who didn't go will have caught up with their salary and be a higher rank and have a lot more experience. So it doesn't really matter if you don't go, as you might have thought.

    As MCDOs do a lot of officer training and warfare officer jobs, they wouldn't have time to do all of the different Units. So generally they only specialise in one.


    I believe you get about 5 grand extra a year because the diving is a specialist branch, and you may get another bonus as your so close to high danger targets such as IEDs and OEDs.

    Pay for a rank starts at 17 grand a year after training and can rise to 45 grand i believe. Not including your bonus.

    As an office you start at 25 grand a year i believe and can increase all the way to £84,000 a year.


    So, i hope the information has been useful to you, its been a long read i'm sure and i've been going for quite a while... Feel free to reply and email me for any questions. Please do say if there's anything wrong with this post, and ill change it straight away. Remember, i'm not a diver, i've literally just completed my RT and am just sharing what i've learnt.

    You have to be extremely fit, to a marine standard and will probably be constantly pushing yourself physically during training. With the prospect of being down under water for what could be up to 8 hours, you've got to be. The minimum run time for just the PEDA is a mile and a half in 12.30 and then another in 10.15, but of course your going to want to get better and not just the minimum.

    Hope all of this has helped

    Best of luck to everyone who wants to become a Mine Clearance Diver in the Royal Navy


    Extra Pictures:

    Arctic Training



    500 and 1000 pound bombs being 'cleared'




    A new (still in progress i believe) vehicle designed to save submariners. All members in the northern diving group are trained to help the personnel from the submarine and man the re compression chambers in case of an emergency


    Additional Information pointed out by other members:

    Last edited: Dec 9, 2011
    • Like Like x 1
  2. £94,000 I ******* wish! They would not have retention issues if that was the case. Not a bad dit. A little naive but general info is there. However it sounds like you spoke to a few junior members of the teams by your vague descriptions. Think I saw you bimbling around.

    Keep your enthusiasm up and keep ya head down.
  3. Thanks for that Rob! Some helpful information there, appreciate the post.
  4. That set is CDLSE made by divex. It is the son of LEBA stealth. The picture is not full face mask it bite mouthpiece variant. I personally like that variant. Good swimming set.
  5. I was speaking to a guy called Dan, another MCDO and a few other non commisioned divers but really got most of it from the presentation. Please do correct me on anything that wasn't right and add some information if you can. Bearing in mind most of the information i got was from a few hours today, so it will be vague, and probably quite a lot of it isn't exactly spot on ^^

    A lot of the things like the different diving Units i had never heard of before, so i thought id share them.

    Were was it you were working today? I was the one sheepishly walking around behind someone for most of the day ^^
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2011
  6. Loved the article dude, nice little insight to life at horsea, infact wish i could pop down for a visit but i live up the other en of the country :(

    just a little useless info, in a CCR (closed circuit rebreather) which i believe the divex is??? you have one bottle of pure oxygen and one bottle of diluent (compressed air)

    also how were the mirror facilities? ;)
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2011
  7. Ah ok, thanks for the info :)

    Not quite as good as i thought, but you never know, maybe there were some hidden away
  8. Ah, fair enough. Thanks for the information ^^

    Yeh, i was only down for a few hours and unfortunately missed an exercise in the afternoon, but still a great incite
  9. Bit of a bone question for frogman:

    Are the CDLSE fitted with an open circuit bailout or do MCD's do away with them to save on weight?

    just asking out of curiosity.
  10. I forgot to mention as well, in the media briefing, they were discussing a potential documentary on the branch, so hopefully watch out in a few years ^^
  11. CDLSE, SABA and OSDS all have bailout systems for any emergencies, CDLSE has different options depending on the depth you dive.

    Oh and the diluent can be either air or heliox mixture.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. What he said.
  13. Great thread Rob, most of its pretty spot on. Any more pics?Chris
  14. There were loads on the powerpoint, i'm trying to find some of the ones that were on there, but no luck so far...

    (EDIT) Found a few extra pictures that weren't the ones i was looking for but still relevant, which are on the original post now ^^
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2011
  15. I was hoping Frogman or anyone else for that matter could help me with an issue that I can't find much information on. I'm currently within the application stage of becoming a MCD having just passed my first medical.

    I've seen a lot of questions within these forums focusing on the medical part of the PEDA however not so much on the dental checks which brings me to my question; A few years back i had my two front teeth chipped and consequently had to have them filed down and caps glued on, is this likely to bar me from entry into the diving branch? (They are permanent caps if that helps)

    Also, thanks very much for this post Renavon and good luck with your application, hopefully see you in training!!

    I'd appreciate any insight that anyone could give me, thanks.
  16. Billy - Although I am not a dentist, your crowns shouldn't pose a problem. The main oral hazard is any loose filling which might allow breathing gas to penetrate the cavity underneath it when at depth. When returning to the surface, such a filling could reseat and trap any gas within the cavity at high pressure. The filling then becomes like the stopper in a bottle of champagne with potentially nasty consequences.
  17. Thanks for your quick response NG, hopefully I'll be ok as I don't have any fillings - I understand the purpose of a dental check now!
  18. I would imagine they would only pose a problem if they cause pain under pressure, such as out low depths. Or as naval_gazer said, if they come loose they could cause some damage.
  19. Ok, thanks. Renavon - where did you get your information in regards to waiting times for this position? I was told that there wasn't a waiting list when I first applied (around June this year) which is obviously quite a contradiction to your proposed 3 years.

  20. What the hell are "low depths"?

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