USS Salvor Returns Home from Deployment
Story Number: NNS061005-08
By Lt. j.g. Shannon Revell, USS Salvor Public Affairs
PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Pearl Harbor-based dive and salvage ship USS Salvor (ARS 52) returned to its Hawaii homeport Oct. 2, after a five-month deployment to Southeast Asia in support of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise 2006.
CARAT is an annual series of bilateral maritime training exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of the Southeast Asian nations of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.
CARAT exercises were designed to build relationships, enhance regional cooperation, promote understanding between participating military forces, and continue development of the participating forces operational readiness.
With these goals in mind, Salvor departed Hawaii April 29, with USCGC Yocona (WMEC 168) in tow. After a brief stop in Guam to turn over her tow, Salvor joined the rest of the CARAT task force in Singapore. Under the leadership of Commander, Destroyer Squadron 1, Capt. Al Collins, the CARAT task group was comprised of Salvor, the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) and guided-missile frigate USS Crommelin (FFG 37), both homeported at Pearl Harbor, and the high endurance cutter USCGC Sherman (WHEC 720).
Chief Navy Diver (DSW/SW) Jon Sommers was glad to see the improvement in diving operations.
“This is the second CARAT I have participated in with the Southeast Asian divers, and our ability to operate with each of them has improved immensely,” said Sommers. “We have learned the techniques and procedures of each host nation just as they have learned ours, so that we would be able to operate jointly on a mission should the need arise.”
In a deployment filled with high points, perhaps the greatest occurred during the Thailand phase of CARAT. With a representative from the Royal Thai navy aboard to observe, Salvor arrived June 11 in the Gulf of Thailand at the site presumed to be the final resting place of the WWII-era USS Lagarto (SS 371) and her crew.
Following a precision mooring over the site, Salvor divers conducted a challenging dive in 225 feet of water using a flyaway mixed gas system. Their findings enabled the Naval Historical Center to confirm in July that the wreckage was indeed that of Lagarto. Before leaving the site, Salvor conducted a traditional wreath laying and bell tolling memorial ceremony in honor of Lagarto and her brave crew.
“I’m extremely proud of Salvor’s crew,” stated Lt. Cmdr. John C. Howard, commanding officer of Salvor. “Their efforts led to the success of every mission: diving operations with each host nation, exercises with the task group and most importantly, enhancing regional cooperation and capability in Southeast Asia.”
Adding to the historic nature of her deployment, Salvor arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, July 1, following five hours of complex navigation up the Mekong River. The scheduled port visit was aimed at enhancing U.S.-Vietnamese relations and was only the fourth U.S. Navy visit to a Vietnamese port and the third to Ho Chi Minh City since normalization of diplomatic relations in 1995. Arriving with USS Patriot (MCM 7), the visit also marked the first time since then that two U.S. Navy ships visited Vietnam at the same time.
During their five days in Vietnam, Salvor Sailors focused on a community service project assisting with renovations at the Thien Binh Orphanage in Dong Nai Province and also had a chance to play volleyball with sailors from the Vietnam People’s navy.
Salvor’s Sailors also experienced the hospitable culture of Vietnam and visited the historical and cultural sites around Ho Chi Minh City.
“All the ports we have been to were fun, but nothing compared to Vietnam," Operations Specialist 3rd Class Deante Brownlee said. "I wondered how they would react to U.S. Navy Sailors walking around Ho Chi Minh. To my surprise, they welcomed us everywhere. Some would even come up to us and thank us for coming and ask when we would return with our families.”
Subsequent phases of CARAT included cooperative work with the divers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Phillipines. While returning to Hawaii at the conclusion of CARAT operations, Salvor visited Cairns, Australia; Suva, Fiji; Pago Pago and American Somoa.
The Salvor crew interacted with the local population in the countries they visited through community service and civic action projects in Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Philippines and Fiji. Each project allowed Salvor’s Sailors to learn more about the cultures of the countries they visited while also promoting good will for the Navy and the United States.
During this last deployment, Salvor traveled more than 19,000 nautical miles, and visited nine countries and two U.S. territories. The crew completed 141 dives for 63 hours and 14 minutes of bottom time. Qualifications included one surface warfare officer and 19 enlisted surface warfare specialists.
Salvor brought the unique perspective of deep-sea diving and salvage capabilities to CARAT. Salvor Sailors exchanged diving and salvage expertise both in the classroom and on the dive side with dive teams from each host nation. Underwater cutting and welding, recovery of sunken vessels, recompression chamber operations, underwater hand-held sonar searches, ship’s husbandry and diving medicine were discussed and practiced.
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