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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Navy’s rescue-and-salvage ship USS Safeguard usually salvages crashed aircraft or crippled ships.

Last week, however, it helped the Royal Malaysian navy pull a sunken sport utility vehicle from the ocean floor off Tioman Island, Malaysia.

The unusual operation was part of the Malaysia phase of a joint exercise called Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2005, which ended Monday.

Malaysia hosted the third phase after the first and second phases took place in Singapore and Thailand, respectively.

More than 1,200 U.S. servicemembers have been involved with CARAT, now in its 11th year.

The SUV was sunk for the training after its engine and fluids were removed, said Lt. Cmdr. Doyle Hodges, Safeguard’s skipper.

“The depth of the water required that the divers practice a technique known as surface decompression, where divers are placed in Safeguard’s hyperbaric (pressurized) chamber and breathe oxygen gas immediately upon reaching the surface,” Doyle stated.

Safeguard and Malaysian divers went down, located the vehicle, rigged it for lifting with a heavy cable and hoisted it up.

“Once the vehicle was up to the surface, Safeguard hooked it with our after boom, which is capable of lifting 40 tons, and swung it across our deck to return it to the Malaysian vessel,” Hodges stated. “Completion of this project required three dives, involving three U.S. and three Malaysian divers supported by the entire complement of personnel topside.”

Safeguard’s crew also conducted a variety of shipwide training events and enjoyed liberty on Tioman Island.

The Safeguard and its crew of 90 departed Sasebo on April 21 and is to return in the fall, Amphibious Group One spokesman Lt. Edward Sisk said Monday.


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