USNS GRAPPLE, Mediterranean Sea — U.S. Navy sailors and civilian mariners attached to USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53) aided in the recovery of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409.
Grapple received the call to assist in the salvage of the crashed aircraft off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon, on Jan. 25. The ship immediately got underway from Tunis, Tunisia and traveled to Augusta Bay, Sicily to pick up 15 U.S. Navy Divers and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians (EOD), before making the trip to Lebanon. The 15 member team comprised of Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU-2) and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 (EOD MU8) Sailors, worked together in recovery efforts.
"It's not out of the ordinary to bring EOD units alongside MDSU units," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 William Turner, the officer in charge of the embarked MDSU detachment. "They bring additional equipment to the table that allows us to work more efficiently in an operation like this."
"The EOD detachment brought along equipment such as the MK-16 breathing apparatus, handheld sonar equipment and additional medical personnel to assist with the mission," said Turner.
"We're here to support the Government of Lebanon in any way," said Senior Chief Navy Diver Sam Mataa, the EOD detachment's "Master Diver," who is the senior diver responsible for overseeing the efficiency and safety of the mission. "This is their operation; we're here to bring additional technical experience and diving and salvage equipment in case they need it."
After arriving off the coast of Lebanon, the divers and EOD personnel teamed up with members of the Lebanese Armed Forces to conduct a search of the area. As a result of teamwork, the coalition of U.S. and Lebanese forces were able to locate and recover some of the wreckage.
"I'm proud of the work that our team accomplished," said Turner. "It was great to work alongside the EOD team and the Lebanese Armed Forces, and our team accomplished a lot in a short time frame."
Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 2 is homeported in Little Creek, Virginia, and EOD Mobile Unit 8 is homeported out of Augusta Bay, Sicily. Grapple is homeported out of Norfolk.