USNS Grapple heads for African deployment

USNS Grapple, U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command ship, departed Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach on February 29 to begin its deployment to Africa in the 6th Fleet’s area of operations.

With a crew of approximately 45 U.S. Navy divers and Civil Service mariners, Grapple is primarily going to provide dive salvage services in support of emergent situations such as requests to salvage and recover ships and aircraft, clear harbors and tow vessels.

Chief Navy Diver Daniel Laube, master diver for Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU 2), said: “Our primary mission will be to work with our Africa partners. We will be training with them on how to further their diving programs. It is not going to be an easy deployment, but I am confident everything will get done.”

The MDSU Navy divers deployed aboard Grapple perform a variety of missions to include underwater construction and demolition projects, search and rescue missions, and provide support for military and civilian law enforcement agencies.

Grapple is specially designed to support diving and salvage operations at sea.

Captain Curtis Smith, Grapple’s master, said: “Should there be an aircraft or a vessel which sinks, we arrive on scene to rescue the pilots and crew. We also are capable of recovering pieces of debris from the both the oceans’ surface and sub-surface of the sea.”

“We are planning on spending time in Morocco, Algeria, the Ivory Coast and many additional African ports working to enhance and improve the practices of our African partners”, Captain Smith added.

It will take approximately two weeks for Grapple to travel to Africa. Grapple is expected to complete its current deployment in late summer.