VIRGINIA BEACH, VA. (WAVY) – Sailors and Navy divers were awarded Thursday for salvaging the MH-53E helicopter that crashed off the coast of Virginia Beach last month and recovering its pilot.
Adm. Bill Gortney, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, presented the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal to 19 Sailors from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2.
The Sailors were honored for their work salvaging 95 percent of the MH-53E that crashed in January off the coast of Virginia Beach, killing three crewmembers and injuring two others. They were also honored for salvaging 40 percent of the F-16C Falcon that crashed in August as well as searching for a MQ-9 Reaper in Lake Ontario in November.
Both the MH-53E and F-16C salvage operations were conducted from the rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51). Grasp, one of four Navy rescue and salvage ships owned by Military Sealift Command, is operated by 26 civil service mariners.
“Thanks for helping us find the ‘what happened’ on the helicopter, and from the family: ‘thanks for bringing him home,'” Gortney said of the MH-53E salvage operations.
Gortney said because of MDSU2’s salvage work, the Navy will be able to find out what caused the crash and put in place mechanisms to prevent it from happening again.
“You pulled up everything we need to find out what happened, so that aircrews who fly can continue to do what they need to in support of our nation. You made that happen,” Gortney said of the F-16C salvage operations.
MDSU2 is an expeditionary mobile unit homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base, Little Creek-Ft. Story in Virginia Beach.