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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Vehicle lost at sea April 17 will be refurbished and returned to duty.

The USS Safeguard crew recovered the $2.5 million, 26-ton vehicle Aug. 16 from 170 feet of water off the coast of Oura Wan, Okinawa. The Safeguard, the Navy’s only rescue and salvage ship in the Pacific, returned to Sasebo last week.

“Although it has not been determined where the repairs will be made, the vehicle will be completely refurbished,” 1st Lt. Amy Malugani, a 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force spokeswoman, said Wednesday afternoon.

The Amphibious Assault Vehicle sank after a training maneuver in preparation for the Land Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise off Okinawa. The vessel, used to carry troops ship to shore, went down after taking on water 26 miles off the coast of Oura Wan, as it was being towed back to the USS Harpers Ferry.

Nobody was injured in the incident.

The sunken vehicle was located in June by the minesweeper USS Guardian and technicians from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3.

Recovering the 26-ton vehicle wasn’t an easy job for the Safeguard’s crew of approximately 100 sailors.

“There are two things in the Navy I have learned,” Lt. j.g. Russ Goff, a mission organizer, said in a report on the recovery, which was released Wednesday. “One, salvage is not a science. And two, salvage is not for the weak.”

The crew spent more than a week completing the complex rigging required to recover the vehicle before departing on the recovery mission, the report said. To steady the ship during recovery, Safeguard sailors created two mooring legs consisting of anchors, chain and heavy cable attached to two buoys.

The mooring legs were set 1,200 yards from shoal water, a shallow area caused by a sandbar or sandbank, the report said. Once the legs were in place, the crew secured them to the ship, positioned directly above the sunken craft.

On Aug. 15, Senior Chief Petty Officer Terry White, a master diver, headed underwater to prepare the amphibious vehicle to be lifted. He and other divers surveyed the vehicle four times, attached a harness and removed a rear hatch to allow seawater to drain as it was hoisted.

The morning after, the Safeguard’s heavy hydraulic cable pullers slowly lifted the vessel.

The most dangerous part of the recovery was transferring the 26-ton load from the hydraulic cable puller to the ship’s 40-ton boom aft.

If the vehicle was not completely drained, the boom might not be capable of supporting the combined weight of the armored carrier and water, the report said. If it swayed while being hoisted, shifting could pose a serious threat to the ship and crew.

“Lifting a heavy object that is swinging because of the sea state, with very little deck space, and with multiple lines under power to steady the AAV, made it very dangerous,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Hans Jacobs, who led the deck and rigging crew, in the report. “We had to be precise, working together to set the AAV on deck without damaging it, the ship or our personnel.”

Lt. Cmdr. Marvin E. Thompson, the Safeguard’s skipper, said he was “awestruck” by how well his crew worked together.

The Marine Corps, which was short one amphibious vehicle, was particularly pleased.

Marine Capt. Christopher Hobson, Combat Assault Battalion commanding officer at Camp Schwab, Okinawa, called the operation “flawless.”

Marines Corps Amphibious Assault Vehicles can carry a crew of three and up to 21 fully equipped troops or 10,000 pounds of cargo.

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