NORFOLK (NNS) -- More than 50 Navy divers and support staff from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 and Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1 are preparing to deploy to Port-au-Prince, to bring their unique and expeditionary diving skills to the recovery efforts following the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Each of these units, a resource within Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, offers capabilities that are unique to the expeditionary maritime environment. The commodore of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2, Capt. Dale Fleck, said a key component within NECC its diving operations. Each of these units, he explained, falls under either EODGRU-2 or First Naval Construction Division.
"We're all under the expeditionary forces and not only do we perform our specialties," Fleck said, "but we can do it in an expeditionary manner, which makes us a good choice for this particular situation."
As the salvage commander for the operation, Fleck said the primary mission for these Sailors will be to conduct an assessment of ports and waterways, and if found, to remove any underwater obstruction that could hinder shipboard movement into the port.
Whether assigned to MDSU or UCT, these divers are proficient at adapting to underwater environments, to include relief operations such as those required after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeff Barone, the officer in charge of MDSU-2, Company 2-1, said he recalled the diverse diving communities who came together to remove obstructions in order to help Louisiana open sea ports so humanitarian aid could be brought in.
"This is, ideally, the same thing that happened there - we're just going to another country," he said. "Our first and foremost goal when we get down there is to go ahead and clear an avenue so they can bring humanitarian aid in as quickly as possible to bring some comfort to the island nation of Haiti."
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lowell Schrader, the officer in charge of UCT 1, Detachment Alpha, said he can only speculate as to what they will find once they enter the waters nearest the capital.
"Based off of what I've seen on the television, there is significant structural damage in that whole area," he said. "With that in mind, you would assume that there would be an equal amount, or even more, damage along the port and the port infrastructure itself. There could be some significant damage down there, so it's hard to speculate how much we're going to be able to do to get that up and running. We're going down to assist with throughput capability as much as we can."
Even as the Sailors of UCT and MDSU stand by to leave, uncertain when they will return, the overall outlook is one of global inclusion.
"We take this as an honor for us to be able to go and do this," said Barone. "I've been in for 28 years, and warrant officer Schrader has almost as much time in as I do. You are sending the most qualified guys down there to do this job. This is not our priority, this is a United States military priority to get down there and provide aid and comfort to that country."
The expeditionary character of NECC forces uniquely positions them to quickly support out nation's response to the tragedy in Haiti. NECC forces support the nation's Maritime Strategy with the agility and flexibility needed to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the Haitian people.
For more news from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/necc/.