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A View Below Deck
by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hill - September 22, 2013

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"Mere Chance" by David G. Bancroft

Watercraft engineers of the United States Army Vessel Churubusco, Landing Craft Utility 2013 (LCU-2013) with the Army Watercraft Company (Provisional), 371st Sustainment Brigade, have the challenge of maintaining not only their transportation, but also their home at Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait.

(From left to right) Spc. Lisa F. Carlisle, a Kansas City, Kan. native, Spc. Miguel S. Rodriguez, a Tampa Fla. native and Spc. Kevin L. Terre, a Lacey Wash. native clean equipment after an oil leak in the engine room of the United States Army watercraft vessel, Churubusco, Landing Craft Utility 2013 at sea on Aug. 27, 2013. The crew are all watercraft engineers with the Army Watercraft Company (Provisional), 371st Sustainment Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hill)
(From left to right) Spc. Lisa F. Carlisle, a Kansas City, Kan. native, Spc. Miguel S. Rodriguez, a Tampa Fla. native and Spc. Kevin L. Terre, a Lacey Wash. native clean equipment after an oil leak in the engine room of the United States Army watercraft vessel, Churubusco, Landing Craft Utility 2013 at sea on Aug. 27, 2013. The crew are all watercraft engineers with the Army Watercraft Company (Provisional), 371st Sustainment Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hill)

The waves of the Persian Gulf lap gently at the hull of the vessel as it sways back and forth along the port. The air is humid, but comfortable as a cool wind drifts in from the sea.

The sun sets on the horizon, casting golden and pink shadows on the blue waters and the deck of the boat.

It's a tranquil and beautiful image of life at sea aboard an Army watercraft vessel.

Below decks it's an entirely different image.

In the engine room below soldiers are gathered around a piece of machinery, the air is 15 degrees warmer and far more humid then above deck.

The scent of chemicals, diesel and oil coat the air and the constant noise of the engines churning makes it almost impossible to hear anything else.

Oil is splattered on the wall behind them, coating the white paint with streaks of thick oil where a cap broke off one of the engines earlier.

The soldiers work quickly in repairing the leak, shouting commands above the din of the engines and wiping their oil streaked hands on their mechanic jumpsuits.

The soldiers are Army watercraft engineers, and it's their job to maintain the picturesque image above deck by maintaining the equipment below.

“If they don't do their job, there is no way I can do mine, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael J. Byrne, a Swansboro, N.C. native and the vessel master of the LCU-2013.

Watercraft engineers of the United States Army Vessel Churubusco, Landing Craft Utility 2013 (LCU-2013) with the Army Watercraft Company (Provisional), 371st Sustainment Brigade, have the challenge of maintaining not only their transportation, but also their home at Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait.

Both at sea and at port, the watercraft vessel serves not only as a piece of equipment, but where the soldiers, sleep, eat and live, said Omar J. Cruz, first mate of the LCU-2013 and a Tampa, Fla. native.

The soldiers of the LCU-2013 are with the 824th Transportation Company and are headquartered out of Moorhead City, N.C. with a detachment in Tampa, Fla.

The geographically separated unit had to learn to work together and become an integrated unit for their current deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“There isn't a job on this boat that doesn't matter, everyone interlocks with each other,” said Spc. Lisa F. Carlisle, a watercraft engineer with LCU-2013 and a Kansas City, Kansas native. “Half the crew of this boat is from the Tampa detachment and the rest are from Morehead City, it doesn't matter.”

Whether the boat is at port or at sea it is the engineers job to constantly perform preventative maintenance checks and inspect and maintain the equipment to ensure the boat is mission capable and the mission will be completed while at sea, said Carlisle.

“If we broke down at sea, we could drift, we could float into enemy waters that we don't want to be in, we could have fires or damaged equipment very easily,” said Cruz.

The expertise and skill required to avoid such catastrophic events means that each engineer is licensed to a specific level and must maintain their licensing throughout their military service, which can be a challenge for reservists, said Byrne.

The very unique thing about our field (Army watercraft) is that it is license driven,” said Byrne. “Maintaining that license is difficult for a reservist, our annual trainings are usually at least 29 days, a month away from home during the summer.”

Carlisle looks at her job as a way to see the impact of her hard work immediately as well as a way to prove to her husband that she's more than capable to be an engineer, she said.

“I like adventures and I thought this would be an adventure,” said Carlisle. “My husband said it was harder for women to be mechanics, so of course I had to prove him wrong.”

Despite the challenges of the job coupled with hot and dirty work, the engineers of LCU-2013 wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

“Every day you learn something new, there's so much down here,” said Spc. Miguel S. Rodriguez, a watercraft engineer with the LCU-2013 and a Tampa, Fla. native. “It feels good at the end of the day.”

By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hill
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2013

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