Navy divers supporting Japan relief

HACHINOHE, Japan (NNS) — A bilateral effort comprised of Navy Divers, Seabees, Explosives Ordnance specialists, Merchant Marines from the Safeguard-class salvage ship USNS Safeguard (ARS 50), and Japanese officials came together over a three-day period, March 25 to March 28.

Together, they helped clear channels in Hachinohe, one of the areas severely affected in the recent earthquake-related tsunami that hit the region.

Working closely with Japanese officials, careful mapping, planning and coordination was established in order for boats to safely operate in the water. Master Divers pointed out several key areas of focus during each day’s dive operations to members of the Japanese Coast Guard and other officials.

“Our requests initially came from the government of Japan, through Commander, Task Force 76 (CTF-76), and down to us,”  Chief Navy Diver Jon Klukas. said.

Under the direction of CTF-76, members of the Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, Underwater Construction Team 2, from Port Hueneme, Calif. and Explosive Ordnance and Disposal Mobile Unit 5, home ported at US Naval Base Guam, performed land and underwater location, sonar identification and recovered foreign objects that were potentially blocking safe passage through the channel.

The first task was to pass the channel using high-capacity sonar, which gave an 80-meter visual range of the channel floor, then specialized dive teams were sent to conduct harbor and waterway clearance, indentifying objects through the use of floating markers to alert topside observers.

“Over four million square meters of harbor have been sonared,” said Klukas. “We have also pulled about five tons of wreckage, consisting of various items like cars, large conex boxes and diesel generators.”

Once the objects were indentified, it was up to the crew of the Safeguard to operate cranes and float the items to the surface for proper recovery.

“The divers we have here on station, as well as the Safeguard crew, have been absolutely phenomenal,” said Klukas. “They have had to work long hours in very tough conditions, and the mission came out a success in the end.”