News: Navy divers, sailors awarded for MH-53E recovery and salvage
Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jared Aldape
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Adm. Bill Gortney, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, presented awards to sailors and Navy Divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU2) Feb. 6 for salvaging last month’s downed MH-53E helicopter and recovering a missing aviator.
Gortney also congratulated MDSU2 on other recent mission highlights including salvaging a downed U.S. Air Force F-16C Falcon off the coast of Virginia in August and searching for a MQ-9 Reaper in Lake Ontario in November.
Gortney presented the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal to a total of 19 sailors from MDSU2 including the Area Search Platoon (ASP) for their efforts in locating the MH-53E that went down approximately 20 miles off the coast of Virginia Jan. 8 and to the Navy Divers for recovering the missing aviator and salvaging 95 percent of the wreckage.
“Thanks for helping us find the ‘what happened’ on the helicopter, and from the family: ‘thanks for bringing him home,’” he said.
Gortney further recognized the sailors and noted that because of their hard work, “we can find out what caused it, and put in place mechanisms to prevent it from happening again.”
The sailors were assembled at MDSU2’s seaside facility where Gortney also praised MDSU2’s other successes.
Gortney, a naval aviator by trade, spoke of the importance of MDSU2’s salvage operations. “Thank you for your work in pulling up the F-16 Falcon,” he said.
Approximately 40 percent of the aircraft was recovered including the flight data recorder, also known as the “black box,” and confidential avionics equipment.
“You pulled up everything we need to find out what happened, so that aircrews who fly can continue to do what they need to in support of our nation. You made that happen.” In November 2013, MDSU2’s ASP deployed to Oswego, N.Y. in search of a downed, unarmed U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper that crashed into Lake Ontario.
“We understand the sacrifices you make, and conditions that you operate in,” Gortney said.
It has not been decided yet if the ASP will resume the search for the MQ-9 in the spring.
Gortney, a naval aviator by trade, spoke of the importance of MDSU2’s salvage operations. “You pulled up everything we need to find out what happened, so that aircrews who fly can continue to do what they need to in support of our nation. You made that happen.”
Both the MH-53E and F-16C salvage operations were conducted from the rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51). Grasp, one of four Navy rescue and salvage ships owned by Military Sealift Command, is operated by 26 civil service mariners.
“I can’t thank you enough for letting me come out here and talk to you. Maybe you don’t know how hard you work, and maybe you don’t think we pay attention: we do,” Gortney said.
MDSU 2 is an expeditionary mobile unit homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base, Little Creek-Ft. Story in Virginia Beach, Va. They previously conducted successful salvage operations supporting TWA Flight 800, Swiss Air Flight 111, the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, the I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minnesota, the Civil War ironclads USS Monitor, CSS Georgia, and recovery of downed F-16Cs off the coast of Italy and Virginia.