Surface Supplied Air Event with US Border Patrol and Phoenix Police

by Shawn Harrison

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In February I had the pleasure of being invited to sunny Arizona in order to attend an event that the US Border Patrol (USBP) and Phoenix Police Department (PPD) where holding. Both teams were conducting a joint training event on Surface Supplied Air (SSA). Mike Buck, a member of the US Border Patrol’s BORSTAR team, was informing me that all members of the Tucson BORSTAR’s Subsurface Maritime Operations Group in this class received training on SSA. He further stated that “this training conditions our team for multiple scenarios that we may encounter, and we need to be prepared to respond.” They also realize that SSA requires specialized training. Moreover, the deployment of the system into various environments would provide additional safety factors.


As part of the training they had scenarios set up in which they would deploy from shore in boats and even small Zodiacs (as you can see from the picture below). One of the scenarios involved a vehicle that had been submerged into the water. After searching and locating the vehicle, they realized it was full of drugs bundled in burlap bags (the bags where stuffed for simulation of course). They would then deploy a diver to extract the material from the car. Come to find out, this is a real situation they might face.

During the scenario, the SSA diver would deploy from the boat as the tender would guide the diver to the suspected search area. A search pattern was used to slowly work the diver back towards the objective. The diver is attached to an umbilical line which contains the air hose, as well as a safety line and communication line. The communication line is hard-wired into the system making it more reliable than wireless systems. The diver has an emergency bailout bottle mounted on his back; also the umbilical line can act as the search pattern line.

The majority of public safety dive teams train using Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) equipment, and both the US Border Patrol and Phoenix Dive Team are trained in both SCUBA and SSA. This was a great opportunity to see the two teams working together and sharing information with each other.

I would like to thank George Herr, David Jordon and the Phoenix Police Department’s dive team, along with Mike Buck and all the US Border Patrol BORSTAR dive team members for allowing me the opportunity to take part in this event.

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