US Navy Divers Recover Soldier's Body From Afghanistan River
Dispatches from the Front:
FORWARD OPERATING BASE TODD, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2009 -- A team of U.S. Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) Two, Company 2-3, helped recover the body of U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Islip from the Murghab river in northern Afghanistan.
The MDSU divers, who are attached to Commander Task Force (CTF) 56, deployed from Bahrain to support Operation Hero Recovery. After four days of searching the Murghab river in waters flowing around 12 knots and as low as 42 degrees, the divers located Sgt. Islip Nov. 29.
“We were tasked to enhance the search efforts in the rapids near the initial entry point,” said Chief Warrant Officer James Dertilis, the team’s diving warrant officer. “We expected very challenging dive conditions, but everyone was prepared mentally and we were determined to complete the mission successfully.”
“The bottom was rough and uneven and our visibility was at six inches or less,” said Navy Diver 1st Class William Stetson. “We worked through it and by the second day we were able to crawl along the bottom searching and covering large areas.”
The MDSU team had help from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Eric Brooks who went in advance of the team to handle logistics. Brooks set up berthing and a supply chain for the team in Afghanistan where they had never dove before and had no pre-existing logistics set up.
Throughout the job the team also worked closely with Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division. The two teams quickly adapted to one another and were working in unison before the end of the first day. “In addition to the security they provided, the 82nd Airborne Soldiers were eager to help us out,” said Navy Diver 2nd Class Alfred Pintor. “Whether it was helping to tend the lines for our divers in the water or just cooking us a good steak for breakfast, they were there for us and with us.”
The entire MDSU team took the job to heart and considered finding the lost Soldier to be their most important mission of their Navy careers.
“The team laid everything on the line for mission success,” said Master Diver Billy Gilbert. “The personnel braved rapids with currents exceeding ten knots and applied all their expeditionary and salvage experience performing dives in a hostile environment.”
CTF 56 is a U.S. 5th Fleet task force that plays a vital role in the region by providing operational oversight for all naval expeditionary combat forces. CTF-56 supports nine different task groups including expeditionary combat, logistical support and combat service support forces.
(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Matthew Bash.)