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You call, we haul: Army Reserve watercraft operators

By Sgt. Thomas Belton | Exercise News Day | July 30, 2018

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — “We haul big stuff.” 

The massive 200-foot barge derrick crane behind CW3 Thomas Heald, from the 467th Transportation Company, backs up his statement. Capable of lifting nearly 130 tons at 175 feet with an 80-foot crane, this crane grants Army Reserve watercraft units an unprecedented ability to haul cargo, conduct salvage operations, clear port channels and berths, and removing obstacles. 

Today’s mission: testing the large tug’s ability to tow it out to open sea.

“We’re preparing to haul the barge derrick crane to prove we can move vessels from pier-side to the open ocean, said Heald. “It provides proof of principle that we can haul vessels from say, Japan to Korea.”

Towing a vessel as large as a BD crane is no small feat. Countless man-hours go into preparing the BD for a tow, with a large tugboat guiding the BD, and two small tugboats to assist with maneuvering.

“Taking the barge derrick out to the open ocean isn’t something you take lightly,” said Heald. “You have to make sure everything is secured properly, you have to watch weather condition, plan for safe havens along the way in case the weather does turn on you. Taking the barge out is the result of months of planning and preparation.”

That preparation goes all the way down to the small tug crews assisting with the maneuvering.

“We’ll conduct drills to maintain our proficiency,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Maravale, a watercraft operator from the 467th Transportation Company. “We practice firefighting, damage control and man overboard drills to remain proficient during our missions.”

Watercraft units don’t just haul cargo; however, the 467th assists local law enforcement, and nearby environmental agencies.

“We’ll do missions all throughout the year,” said Heald. “Occasionally we’ll have missions of opportunity to assist with pulling derelict nets off the bottom of the ocean and help local law enforcement with maritime scenario training environments.”

Army Reserve watercraft units also provide the ability to reach across branches and conduct joint operations.

“We work with the Navy divers,” stated Heald. “I can haul one of my barges to store their equipment, provide meals, and berthing for their dive qualifications.”

Watercraft units ensure Army Reserve Soldiers remain at the tip of the spear, conducting vital missions and hauling valuable supplies to combatant commanders across multiple theaters of engagement.

“When we do our job, we’re out in the Pacific, the Persian Gulf, or the Caribbean,” said Heald. We’re moving cargo for people and we’re doing real world missions.”