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Transatlantic bond in the Aegean Sea


Transatlantic bond in the Aegean Sea


Aegean Sea – Since June 15, USNS GRAPPLE (T-ARS 53) has been patrolling the Aegean Sea as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2), supporting their effort to stem the flow of illegal migration into Europe.

The USNS GRAPPLE has been patrolling the Aegean Sea for more than a month and has been working alongside ships from Greece, Turkey and other NATO Allies to support the international effort to stem the on-going refugee crisis.

SNMG2 units are supporting the Turkish and Greek Coast Guards and the European Border Agency, FRONTEX with advanced shipboard sensors, amplifying local capabilities. The real- time information generated is absolutely critical to help local authorities deal with the illegal human trafficking networks.

The GRAPPLE doesn’t look like your average Navy ship.  It is grey; but instead of missile batteries and large guns mounted on deck, the GRAPPLE has cranes, large orange buoys and extra anchors visible.

The GRAPPLE is a specifically designed salvage ship that is part of Military Sealift Command: a branch of the Navy that operates cargo and special mission, non-combatant ships.  The GRAPPLE normally conducts rescue and salvage missions with its cranes, salvage, towing and firefighting gear, and a recompression chamber that supports diving operations.

The ship’s crew is also not what you would expect from the standard Navy ship.  The GRAPPLE is manned by Civil Service Mariners; who are civilians that possess U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine Licenses and credentials.  The Civilian Mariners run the daily operations of the ship and are supplemented by active duty U.S. Navy Sailors for special missions such as the NATO Aegean activities.  Prior to entering the Aegean, the ship had a team of Navy Divers on board and was supporting Exercise Phoenix Express; a partnership exercise where the ship and crew assisted in training, diving and salvage projects with African nations.

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