Trading slicker for Army uniform, Seattle crab fisherman selects airborne option
June 3, 2013
EUREKA, Calif -- Eureka Recruiting Center Commander Staff Sgt. Michael Carter was at Eureka Harbor docks to buy crabs for a barbecue and ended up reeling in a fresh recruit. On the loading docks Carter met Brice Smith, and the two of them struck up a conversation about the Army.
"I asked Brice if he had ever thought about serving his country and fighting the war on terrorism," said Carter.
Smith actually had thought about it. His brother serves in the Navy and his college boxing coach is a retired Army Ranger who served in a unit at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Smith grew up around the Northlake Shipyard Inc. in Seattle where his mom worked. When a family friend, Marcus Ballweder, was looking for a deck hand on his 35-foot Gillnetter, he looked to Smith who was known to be a hard worker. Sea Captain Ballweder and his crew fish for Dungeness crab in the waters around Crescent City and Eureka.
When Carter asked Smith if he could physically handle becoming an Army Ranger, Smith answered, "Ranger school could not be nearly as hard as stringing along 150-pound crab pots 30 hours straight, six days a week."
Smith then proved how physically fit he is by scoring the maximum 300 points on the Army Physical Fitness Test.
Smith easily scored 300, according to Carter, "not only due to his college boxing experience, but with the type of work he endured on his crab boat. He has fully prepared himself for his training."
Crab fishing requires a significant investment and is physically demanding. The crew has 300 crab pots that each weigh 150 pounds and rope to string a set of 60 pots at a location marked with a buoy. The crew purchases meals ready to eat (MREs) from the military surplus store, which are high in calories for long-term sustainment. These meals are a good fit because a deck hand can burn up to 5,000 calories on any given day, according to Smith.
Smith shared a story of bravery and decision making when he went with Ballweder to Alaska to build a cradle for a boat Ballweder was purchasing.
"We were going through a storm and towing a boat when the tow line snapped," said Smith. "I jumped with the tow line and swung out from boat to boat."
When asked if he had second thoughts when he made the dangerous jump with the tow line, Smith simply remarked, "A choice had to be made, and I made it."
Ballweder is not happy losing Smith to the Army, but understands the Army was an opportunity to start a career.
"He lost a good deck hand," said Smith.
When Carter approached Ballweder to share the good news of Smith enlisting, Ballweder asked Carter not to hang out by the harbor on the days he comes in with crab.
"His new deck hand might have plans to join the Army," said Carter.
Smith has shown that he exemplifies the Army Values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage as a deck hand on a crab fishing boat. He is prepared physically and mentally to exemplify those values as an Army Infantryman.
"From what I understand of the fisherman lifestyle, those attributes of being an early riser, being physically fit and having the mental and intestinal fortitude to brave rough weather will serve Smith well in his career as an Army Ranger," said Redding Recruiting Company Commander Maj. Jimmy Chen.