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U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM)

Sail Army; The Life Of An Army Mariner

Story by SGT Walter Lowell on 05/28/2016
"I didn't even know the Army had boats," said Sgt. First Class John E. Trautwine, the operations sergeant of LSV-6, 1099th Transportation Detachment. He has been an Army Mariner since early 2000.
"When you work on a boat, that is your home," he said. "You go to bed to water. You wake up to water."
"I've spent my whole life on the water, said Pvt. First Class Douglas R. Baggett, a watercraft operator on LSV-6, 1099th TD. He has served in the Army as a mariner for 18 months.
Baggett used to work with his father fishing for shrimp & crab on the St. John's river that runs through Jacksonville, Florida, southeast of his hometown of Callahan. He also spent time on a river tugboat.
The duties of watercraft operators, also referred to as deck hands, are to maintain the boat itself, said Baggett. On a vessel such as an LSV, it is also their jobs to load, unload and secure the cargo.
Sgt. Asau Asanuma, a watercraft operator and a lead seaman on LSV-6, 1099th TD has five years experience on Army boats.
Like Baggett, Asanuma also grew up on boats with his father, he said. Asanuma is from Palau, an island just south of Guam. As a Pacific Islander, he was attracted to the field because he lived his entire life on or around the ocean.
As a leader, he takes care of the Soldiers, he said. He ensures that the Soldiers are taking care of the equipment and that they are adequately trained for drills conducted while at sea.
"If a man goes overboard, there is no one around to help us," he said. "We are in the middle of the ocean. We are the enforcers and our saviors."
"Fire drills, we have to do every week," said Asanuma.
"Out here on the ocean, you cannot exactly call the fire department," said Baggett. "When your house is on fire, you have to protect your home."
The boat crew learn through advanced individual training and follow-on developmental courses essential skills like damage control, deck operations, navigation, radar reading and earn certifications that will follow them after their enlistments are done, said Trautwine. Some of the schools transfer directly to Coast Guard equivalents.
"We can do things other fields cannot," he said. There are opportunities for Soldiers that want to stay in the career path. The responsibilities of an Army mariner are more based off of their education of watercraft operations then it is of rank.
All training is at Joint Base Langley- Eustis, Virginia, Trautwine added. The schools are divided into four skill levels called 10-schools and the corresponding school is added onto the end of their Military Occupational Specialty. Skill level 10 is a Soldier directly out of MOS training as a seaman, 20 is for a lead seaman, 30 represents a higher leadership position or boatswain, and 40 being a detachment sergeant. Each school teaches new skills and system operations.
Trautwine is the senior enlisted Soldier on the boat and is the acting first sergeant who has completed 40-level school. His official MOS is 88K40.
It is possible for lower-ranking servicemembers to complete a school ahead of their peers and find themselves in a leadership position despite his or her rank, he said.
Life on an LSV is a 24-hour operation while out to sea. The Soldiers rotate four hours on duty and eight hours off. Drills can happen at any time, day or night. The cooks that live on the boat with them serve hot meals four times a day from the galley. The crew shares a small living area that includes engineers, who maintain the engines and generators, a medic who works out of a sickbay, and a communications expert.
A team of warrant officers are in charge of boat operations and the enlisted crew. There are no commissioned officers assigned to the vessel.
"This is a very small field," said Asnuma. "We work with [a] very small crew and we are a tight group." An LSV crew consists of around 30 Soldiers.
The Army only has a total of six LSVs, said Trautwine. LSVs are the biggest boat used by the Army, and they are a very cost effective way of moving a large amount of Army equipment over long distances.
LSV-6 is one of two LSV's in a small fleet of logistics vessels that work out of Kuwait under the 524th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. They are attached to the 17th Sustainment Brigade, an Army National Guard unit out of Las Vegas, Nevada, that is responsible for fulfilling the logistical needs servicemembers in The Middle East, including Operation Inherent Resolve, supplying strategic allies fighting the Islamic State. All Fall under the 1st Theater Support Command.
The LSV is a Besson-class cargo vessel and has been in service since 1987. The model is named after Gen. Frank S. Besson Jr, former chief of Army transportation. The boats feature front and rear roll-on/roll-off ramps for shore loading and unloading. It can accomplish this in just four feet of water. The cargo deck can accommodate any vehicle used by the U.S. Army and can hold 24 M1 Abrams main battle tanks.
The vessel is 273 feet long and 60 feet wide at the beam. It is powered by two EMD 16-645E2, 1,950 horsepower engines that can propel the vessel 12 knots (about 14 mph) for between 12,000 to 15,000 km (6,000-8,000 miles), depending on the cargo.
The LSVs are used all over the world, said Trautwine. They operate in places like Virginia, Hawaii, Alaska and the Persian Gulf.
"There are always ups and downs," said Asanuma. On one particular mission, his team loaded dozens of vehicles onto the boat while working over 24 hours without rest to get the job done.
"It's the most stable job and the most fun," he said. "I'm in the water, sailing. It's definitely the Army's best-kept secret."
"I like my job," said Baggett. "I get to do cool things and see cool places. read more

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