Multiple agencies participate in joint dive exercise

ST. ANDREWS BAY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The St. Andrews Marina is bustling with different agencies as they participate in a joint dive training exercise.

When it comes to underwater threats and recovery operations, training and communication are vital. That's why the Panama City Fire Department's Dive Team is working with local, state, and federal agencies in a training called "Joint Exercise Black Drum" in St. Andrews Bay.

"It changes a little bit each year, who's attending, what we're doing, but we have four stations set up and each station has a representative from the team whose strength is in that exercise," said Captain Jerome Fleeman, a dive team member with the Panama City Fire Department.

This year, those teams included:
– U.S. Border Patrol/Special Operations Group
– Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
– Bay County Sheriff’s Office
– Panama City Fire Department
– Florida State University Evidence Recovery Team
– U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Maritime Operations Training Detachment
– USCG Divers
– Dive Lab, Inc.

One of the benefits of having multiple agencies out there is that they get to work together, so when it comes time to hit the water, not only do they get different perspectives, but strength in numbers too.

"You train with the other agencies because there's times when we lean on the other agencies for their assistance," Sergeant Andrew Husar with the Bay County Sheriff's Office, said.

As the different teams train to become a more cohesive unit, their exercises include underwater search and recovery for evidence and post-blast investigation techniques.

Some may say it's going a little overboard to have extensive training like this, but in a community surrounded by water, the participants want to be ready for anything.

"I would like to think that everybody could rest easy knowing that in these situations, we have a number of resources and a number of teams trained and able to train together and work together to respond to it," Captain Fleeman said.

The marina and its services will be open to the public, but visitors are urged to stay away from the staging area for the exercise.