Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Rear Adm. Rich Landolt, has assumed the duties as the senior naval officer in charge of U.S. Navy assistance to the Republic of Korea (ROK) in their salvage efforts for the ROKS Cheonan Apr. 5.
Landolt has been on-site for several days to assess the situation and acclimate his staff to the mission. Additionally, he has met with the ROK lead for the salvage efforts, Vice Adm. Kim Sung-Chan, and his staff aboard ROKS Dokdo several times to coordinate future plans.
His ship, USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), will serve as the U.S. Afloat Staging Base for this operation and he has brought with him portions of his staff and portions of Amphibious Squadron 11, commanded by Commodore Mark Weber.
Landolt will command of all U.S. naval forces in the area including USS Harpers Ferry, the rescue and salvage ship USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) and USS Lassen (DDG 82) along with 16 Navy divers of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One (MDSU-1) and 12 explosive ordnance technicians from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five (EODMU-5), Platoon 501. These forces along, with other U.S. Navy salvage and diving experts, will continue to work in a supporting role to the ROK Navy who has the overall lead for the salvage operation.
Task Force 76 carries an abundant amount of experience providing support during contingency operations like this, having recently provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to Padang, Indonesia, after it was struck by a series of earthquakes in October 2009.
The U.S. naval forces were initially under the command of Commodore Charles F. Williams, of the U.S. 7th Fleet's Commander, Destroyer Squadron 15 (CDS-15) after the Cheonan sank March 26 in the Yellow Sea near the western sea border with North Korea. Some U.S. Navy forces were in the near vicinity conducting combined exercises with the ROK Navy when the incident occurred and were quickly dispatched to the location to assist in search and rescue efforts. Along with the afore mentioned ships and MDSU-1, the U.S forces also included the guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67). The Navy the quickly deployed the EODMU-5 detachment and redirected the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry to join the group.
USS Harpers Ferry offers extended capabilities for this type of mission including a larger helicopter deck, a well deck with a utility landing craft embarked, two small boats and expanded medical facilities.