On September 1, 2014, the flight deck of the USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) was the setting for a small miracle at sea. A CH-53E Super Stallion was attempting to land on the Mesa Verde, when the helicopter crashed into the water.
The Marine CH-53 went down in the Gulf of Aden, near Djibouti , as it attempted to land on the flight deck of the Mesa Verde. The helo was returning Marines to the ship following a training exercise on the Horn of Africa. There were seventeen Marines and eight Navy sailors on board when it went down.
As a Veteran of the “Gator Navy”, this story hits home for me. I was stationed on the USS Ogden (LPD-5) from November, 2004, until just before she was decommissioned in February, 2007. While serving all over the world on the Ogden, I have steamed in the Gulf Aden, and witnessed flight operations countless times on her flight deck. In two and a half years on the Ogden and another year on the USNS Rainer (TAOE-7), there were numerous opportunities for accidents to occur.
Thankfully, all 25 service members were rescued. The Navy said that there were some unspecified minor injuries, but all injuries were treated in the sickbay on board the Mesa Verde, meaning that the injuries were not severe enough to require transfer to a more comprehensive medical facility.
The USS Mesa Verde, along with other “Gator Navy vessels,” is called an amphibious ship, or “Amphib”, because of its ability to carry United States Marines and their equipment and launch beach landings. The Mesa Verde, an Amphibious Transport Dock, has the capacity to carry up to 800 Marines, and all the gear necessary for an invasion.
The cause of the crash is being investigated, although the Navy has confirmed that it was not caused by any hostile activity.
As a sailor, I know that this successful rescue could only be accomplished through a quick response from the entire crew of the Mesa Verde. From the lookouts, to the bridge, to my comrades in CIC, to the engineers, and the retrieval teams in RHIBS and other helos, it was a team effort. Bravo-Zulu to the entire crew of the Mesa Verde. Job well done.
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Military Connection: ‘Miracle at Sea’: By Joe Silva