USNS Safeguard completes dive exercise in Bangladesh

By Edward Baxter, MSCFE Public Affairs

      Civil service mariners and U.S. Navy divers embarked on board Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) completed a week-long, bilateral training exercise with the Bangladesh navy Sept. 25.  
      Safeguard pulled pierside at the bustling commercial port of Chittagong Sept. 17 as part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, or CARAT exercise which included guided missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73), U.S. Marines from Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Pacific and Sailors from Riverine Squadron Two. Two ships from the Bangladesh Navy participated this year along with members of its Special Warfare diving and salvage unit.
      “There were many anchored vessels and fishing boats as we approached Chittagong’s harbor which made navigation challenging,” said Safeguard’s civil service master Capt. Ed Dickerson.
      The dive exercise was designed to share knowledge of each other’s dive and salvage program, and, equally important, build relationships and partnerships with the South Asian nation, which borders India and Burma.       U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena visited Dickerson and Safeguard crew members during an evening reception held aboard Safeguard Sept. 18.  U.S. 7th Fleet commander Navy Vice Adm. Scott Swift and commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific Navy Rear Adm. Tom Carney attended along with senior officers from the Bangladeshi navy.
       “The U.S. Navy is here as further evidence of the ever-deepening military-to-military relationship between America and Bangladesh,” Mozena said.
      Divers from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii-based Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One (MDSU One) Company 1-6, trained with counterparts from the Bangladeshi navy in dive and salvage techniques, dive medicine, equipment maintenance, as well as the use of side-scan sonar and remotely-operated vehicles. 
      MDSU divers visited the Bangladeshi dive and salvage facility at its naval base at Issa Khan in Chittagong to tour its hyperbaric chamber; inspect dive equipment and observe their training procedures and practices. 
      Strong currents, muddy waters and limited visibility prevented at-sea dives from Safeguard. Instead, U.S. and Bangladeshi divers trained in a swimming pool at Issa Khan using the surface supplied diving system via a KM-37 diving helmet, which supplies air to submerged divers through an umbilical cord from the surface in depths up to 300 feet. 
      Aboard Safeguard, MDSU divers conducted classroom training on the use of hyperbaric chambers used to treat decompression sickness when necessary after deep-water dives.  Medical issues discussed included learning how to conduct post dive neurological exams to identify signs of nitrogen narcosis due to rapid ascent from deep dives. 
      In a hands-on demonstration, a MDSU diver played the role of an injured diver who was placed into the hyperbaric chamber for treatment. 
      “The reason our divers are so good at responding to emergencies is because they train extensively and treat a practice situation like a real emergency,” said Navy Senior Chief and Master Diver Jeremy Duplissey who was embarked on board Safeguard for the exercise. 
      MDSU divers also conducted demonstrations of itsremotely-operated vehicle. The ROV was not deployed, however, due to sea conditions. Next, MDSU divers conducted classroom training in salvage techniques.
      U.S. and Bangladeshi divers, embarked aboard Safeguard’s rigid-hull, inflatable boat, conducted a hands-on demonstration of side-scan sonar technology used to create three-dimensional maps of underwater targets.
      Throughout the exercise, Safeguard’s 26 civil service mariners worked around the clock to support divers, making sure all the equipment was in good working order before any evolutions commenced. 
      “The relationship we have built with the Bangladeshi navy has made it easy for the crew to work with them,” said Safeguard’s Able Bodied Seaman Michele Stevens.  “The Bangladeshis are very professional, cooperative, and display an eagerness to learn and train.”
      Stewards from Safeguard’s supply department worked long hours to support the evening reception by providing food and staff to support the event. 
      Safeguard’s engineering team ensured that generators kept running in order to make and supply power for the recompression chamber, as well as lighting and communications involved in the dive exercises.
      Safeguard also hosted a group of midshipmen from Bangladesh’s naval academy, as well as a group of children from a nearby middle school, who toured the ship and observed the dive equipment up close.
      CARAT is a five-month-long series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste. Bangladesh became a member of CARAT in 2011.
      The exercise concluded Sept. 24 with a “hotwash,” which involved both sides discussing lessons-learned, and a closing ceremony. The following day, Safeguard set sail for its next mission as U.S. 7th Fleet’s primary rescue and salvage vessel.

About mpatrick