By Journalist 3rd Class John Michael Cokos, Fleet Public Affairs Center Atlantic
Navy rescue and salvage ships USS Grapple (ARS 53) and USS Grasp (ARS 51) returned to their homeport of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek Oct. 5 and Oct. 10, respectively, after completing two separate missions.
Grapple returned from the Gulf of Mexico in support of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Grapple, along with Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers set up a salvage priority to clear area ports and restore oil platforms.
Grasp returned on Columbus Day after a seven-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. While deployed, the ship made more than two dozen port visits and took part in diving operations with many countries including Israel, Tunisia, Albania and Croatia.
According to Grapple Commanding Officer Lt. Cmdr. Kevin M. Brand, the ship was en route the day after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, ready to lend assistance.
“We basically restored all of the Mobile (Alabama) ports,” Brand said. “We went into the Mobile River and opened up the entire ship channel all the way down. After that, we went to Louisiana to re-moor oil platforms.”
After evading Hurricane Rita, the ship went to work in and recovered sonar equipment that became entangled during helicopter operations in the Gulf.
“We are relatively self-sufficient,” said Brand, “We have everything we need on board. We have all the divers, we have our own chamber in the event that divers need to decompress. If something happens, they just send us there.
During their seven-month deployment, the crew aboard Grasp conducted international training and exhibition dives with Spanish and Turkish submarines using the Navy’s Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) 8. Grasp, along with 27 participating nations, took part in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) submarine escape and rescue exercise Sorbet Royal 2005, the first joint dive between Russia and the U.S. Navy.
Grasp transported the Atmospheric Diving System 2000 and SRC 8 along with members of the U.S. Navy's deep submergence unit.
Grapple and Grasp are sister ships, similarly equipped to conduct heavy lifting
, advanced diving and rescue missions and have crews consisting of about six officers and 94 enlisted men.