USNS Grapple deploys to Africa


The US Military Sealift Command’s USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53) departed from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach on 29 February to begin a deployment in support of U.S. Navy and allied operation 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 provided dive salvage services in support of emergent situations such as requests to salvage and recover ships and aircraft, clear harbors and tow vessels.
“Our primary mission will be to work with our Africa partners,” said Chief Navy Diver Daniel Laube, master diver for Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU 2). “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.”
“When we are conducting diving operations, the Navy divers are responsible for salvaging things that go down such as ships, aircraft and small boats,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chad Miller, the MDSU 2 company commander. “We are also responsible for providing diving training with our partner countries in Africa.”

The MDSU Navy divers deployed aboard Grapple are capable of performing 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.
“Should there be an aircraft or a vessel which sinks, we arrive on scene to rescue the pilots and crew,” said Capt. Curtis Smith, Grapple’s master. “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 working with several countries in Africa,” said Smith. “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.”

The civil service mariners who crew Grapple will be critical to ensure the deployment is a success.

Much of Grapple’s crew has deployed multiple times while for some this will be their first deployment.
“The Grapple’s deployment is very important and unique because with a small crew of civil service mariners and Navy divers on board, it will be easier for us to make an impact in some of the smaller countries we plan of working with,” added Smith. “Our footprint is much smaller than an aircraft carrier or a destroyer where there are many people arriving in a port. So it is easier for us to assimilate with local residents.”

The civil service mariners who crew Grapple will be critical to ensure the deployment is a success.
“The crew of the USNS Grapple is phenomenal,” said Smith. “The leadership did a great job making sure everyone was trained and that we had all the stores and repair parts we would need to be ready to go.”
“The civil service mariners operate the Grapple,” added Smith. “The engineers provide hotel services such as electricity, water, heat and air-conditioning. The mariners maintain the engine running gear, bow thrusters and top-side equipment.”
“The mariners from our deck department stand watches in the wheel house,” added Smith. “They steer the ship and avoid heavy seas. Our Steward department operates the ship’s galley and the berthing services on board as well.”

It will take approximately two week for Grapple to travel to Africa. Grapple is expected to complete its current deployment in late summer, the US Navy said.