USNS Grasp and Exercise Sea Breeze 2012

By Kim E. Dixon, MSCEURAF Public Affairs

U.S. Navy ships, joined in many cases by Military Sealift Command ships, conduct exercises with partner nations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to improve maritime safety, security and stability. These goals are achieved through training scenarios both at sea and in port, with U.S. and international partners joining together to enhance working relationships. MSC’s ships often participate in unique ways, using the talents and skills of the civil service mariner crew members and embarked military detachments.

USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) recently highlighted cooperation of this kind by taking part in Exercise Sea Breeze 2012, an annual international maritime exercise led by Ukraine. This year’s exercise involved 18 participant and observer nations working July 9-20 in the Black Sea. Grasp’s other U.S. Navy counterparts – USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) and a P-3C detachment from Patrol Squadron 9 from Honolulu – conducted at-sea training. Grasp, meanwhile, worked with Ukrainian navy divers closer to shore, clearing Odessa, Ukraine, of two sunken barges that were hazards to navigation.

During its annual deployments, Grasp’s CIVMARs work hand in hand with embarked divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, a seamless team accomplishing missions and exercises like Sea Breeze. Grasp’s CIVMARs tell the story of clearing the Odessa port:

Marlon Andries, Boatswain

The mission was daunting from our first arrival. When we arrived in Odessa, it was evident that the partially submerged barges were blocking part of the inner harbor, making it difficult for even small boats to safely moor and get underway in the area. It was an achievement for us to maneuver into position so that we might even begin the salvage mission. With only about half of a floating barge (the same type we were to salvage) to tie up to, we knew it would be tough to get a stable moor to begin work. It was through the teamwork of the deck department, the accurate appraisal by MDSU-2 divers, and the Grasp’s leadership that this dangerous feat was accomplished.

Mathew Hoag, Third Officer

The successful salvage of two sunken barges in the Odessa naval basin was realized only through the sheer hard work and determination of MDSU 2, (Company 2-3), Ukrainian navy divers, and the crew of Grasp. This immensely successful operation required the full use of multiple salvage tactics, technical expertise and sheer grit to accomplish. I think the success in this evolution highlighted the resolve of the American Sailor to complete the mission.

Randy Stambaugh, Able Seaman

I think that the full significance of this project is only beginning to be appreciated by the local mariners who use this part of the harbor. Even within half an hour of the removal of the final barge, a variety of patrol boats and civilian craft began tying up to the newly accessible pier areas. I think this is a long lasting demonstration that many in Odessa will appreciate going forward as an example of partnership.

Ukraine (July 13, 2012) - Sailors and Ukrainian service members work together to extract a submerged barge at the Ukrainian Western Naval Base during Exercise Sea Breeze 2012 (SB12). SB12, co-hosted by the Ukrainian and U.S. navies, aims to improve maritime safety, security and stability engagements in the Black Sea by enhancing the capabilities of Partnership for Peace and Black Sea regional maritime security forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Howard/Released)

Tom Sellers, Chief Mate

Exercise Sea Breeze 2012 has been the highlight of our deployment. Grasp had the opportunity to bring the full use of her salvage resources and techniques to bear in effort to salvage the two 100-plus ton barges previously fouling a good portion of the Ukrainian naval facility basin. The most rewarding take away for me was simply the excellent interoperability of the ships force, the embarked MDSU compliment, and host nation navy and civilian support. It was a great opportunity to put the sum of all of our experiences and knowledge to use in order to successfully adapt and execute a unified plan under difficult conditions.


About jmarconi