Army mariners are a rare breed — soldiers who spend most of their time out on the water, sometimes even transiting open oceans like sailors or something.
While the Army's boat program is relatively unknown outside of the service, it fills a crucial role in military logistics, allowing commanders to ferry supplies along coastlines and up and down rivers — even when there is little or no Navy support. Here are 14 photos that give a glimpse into the life of Army watercraft operators:
1. Mariners have to train for special emergencies that the rest of the Army rarely thinks about, like man overboard or a capsized vessel.
Army Mariners with the 411th Transportation Detachment search for Oscar the training mannequin during a man-overboard drill aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross during cargo operations in the Arabian Gulf Jan. 19, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)
2. Watercraft operators and other mariners can be assigned to a number of different ships, but logistics vessels like these Landing Craft Utility 2000s are the most common.
Two Landing Craft Utility 2000's from the 481st Transportation Company (Heavy Boats) are tied alongside a Naval Cargo ship at Alameda Point, Calif. on July 30, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army Maj. Gregg Moore)
3. The LCU 2000s, Logistics Support Vessels, and other craft are designed to deploy heavy Army equipment to unimproved beaches.
A Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolls off the ramp of an Army Logistics Support Vessel during a training exercise. Army watercraft are designed to operate in austere to bare beach environment and are not dependent upon developed seaports or infrastructure. (Photo: U.S. Army Master Sgt. Dave Thompson)
4. Different vessel types have different lift capabilities, and the largest can carry over a dozen M1 tanks per lift.
Bradley Fighting Vehicles from Company A, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, get loaded on 805th Transportation Detachment, Logistics Support Vessel 8, U.S. Army Vessel, Maj Gen. Robert Smalls at Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, March 25, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William E. Henry, 38th Sustainment Brigade)
5. While the boats are made to operate in as little water as possible — 12 feet for the LSV and as little as five feet for the Landing Craft, Mechanized 8 — most of them are capable of crossing open ocean when necessary.
The 481st Transportation Company (Heavy Boats) brings loads of equipment from Port Hueneme, Calif., to San Clemente Island, May 19, 2015. This 16-hour round trip for the Landing Craft Utility 2000 saves the U.S. Navy hundreds of thousands of dollars.
6. The boys in blue may look like Coast Guardsmen, but they're actually the soldiers who crew these small vessels.
More than 30 Army Mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base on Jan. 19, 2017. The mariners hauled cargo to Qatar from Port of Shuaiba, Kuwait and transported another load during the return. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)
7. Watercraft engineers maintain the boats. Because there are no specialty fields for watercraft engineers, they have to learn the ins and outs of each vessel type.
Spc. Dongbina Kwon, a watercraft engineer with the 1099th Transportation Detachment assigned to the SP4 James A. Loux, Logistical Support Vehicle-6, conducts a check of the engine room during a mission in the Persian Gulf March 1, 2016. Watercraft engineers have to be trained to work on dozens of components because there are no specialty fields used on Army boats. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Walter Lowell)
8. Watercraft operators pilot the ships and work the decks. Other soldiers, like medics and cooks, are also assigned to Army vessel crews.
Spc. Kayla Pfertsh a watercraft operator with the 411th Transportation Detachment readies the main deck of the Army Logistical Support Vessel-5 Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross, for cargo operations in the Arabian Gulf 19 Jan., 2017. The crew consisted of watercraft operators, engineers, cooks, and medics, although each member is trained to perform several tasks outside the scope of their duty specialty in case of an emergency situation. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)
9. Most of the boats have ramps that allow vehicles to be driven on and off.
Ft. Lewis, Wa.,June 8 2016. 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) supports Alpha Company 181st Brigade Support Battalion, Washington Army National Guard, as they load three Palletized Loading Systems (PLS) onto the US Army Vessel Malvern Hill, LCU 2025. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Wilmarys RomanRivera)
10. But cranes are often used to move pallets and machines onto and off of the vessels.
Army mariners with the 1099th Transportation Detachment assigned to the SP4 James A. Loux, Logistics Support Vehicle-6, load an Army vehicle on the main deck during a mission to Port Salalah, Oman, March 6, 2016. An Army LSV can hold over a dozen U.S. Army M1 Main Battle Tanks. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Walter Lowell)
11. Everything from Humvees to tankers to armored vehicles can be loaded this way.
Army Mariners with the 1099th Transportation Detachment assigned to the SP4 James A. Loux, Logistics Support Vehicle-6, loading an Army vehicle on the main deck during a mission to Port Salalah, Oman March 6, 2016. An Army LSV is specifically designed to hold any vehicle used by the U.S. Army. (Photo: U.S. Army)
12. In addition to the sealift vessels, the Army maintains a small fleet of tugboats and engineering vessels like dredges and cranes.
US Army Vessel Small Tugboat Fort Moutrie docked along side the LCU-2026 "Matamoros" at the inner harbor Baltimore MD on 9 Dec 2016 ahead of the Army/Navy Football Game. (Photo: U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Stephen Vickers)
13. The Army's watercraft are deployed all around the globe, supporting operations from the American coast to the Middle East and Asia.
The SP4 James A. Loux (LSV-6) slowly moves its cargo away from port during a mission to Port Salalah, Oman March 6, 2016.
An Army LSV can move a full load of cargo over 6,000 miles over open ocean before it needs to be refueled. By comparison, San Francisco, California to Honolulu, Hawaii, is just over 2,300 miles. (Photo: U.S. Army)
14. Just remember, the crews are soldiers and mariners, not sailors or Marines.
The U.S Army Landing Ship Aldie participates in a training exercise for the maritime portion of Phase one of Tradewinds 2016 near St. George's, Grenada, June 10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)