JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (July 17, 2013) -- As Defense Department leaders continue implementing the nation's new defense strategy, Secretary of the Army John McHugh met recently with a unit playing a pivotal role in the Army's "shift to the Pacific."

Army mariners from the 8th Theater Sustainment Command shared the critical and unique roles Army watercraft play in the Pacific Theater, and a bit of what life is like on an Army ship, while McHugh was onboard the U.S. Army Vessel Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker, July 16.

"As we rebalance our efforts in the Pacific, it's capabilities like this -- and the Soldiers who make them possible -- that are critical to the United States Army and to the United States of America," McHugh said. "This vessel's self-sufficient crew enables a level of readiness and maneuverability that enhances all operations in the Pacific, to include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief."

The U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility stretches 9,000 miles. More than one third of the region's 36 nations are small islands, with the majority of the population living within 200 miles of the coast. Army Watercraft are a heavily used resource in moving personnel, equipment and supplies where they are needed, when they are needed, throughout the region.

"Over the water transportation enhances readiness, and speeds our ability to deploy sizable amounts of personnel and equipment," McHugh said. "Combined with land and air platforms, these watercraft complete a triad of movement, delivery and distribution modes."

McHugh traveled the passageways of the vessel, visiting where the 31-member crew lives and handles every aspect of the ship's operation -- from engine maintenance and safety to food service and medical needs.

"We're underway about 210 days a year," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Francis Lloyd, the vessel's commander. "About 80 percent of that involves transporting equipment and supplies to the 'Big Island' for training exercises that enable combat readiness for Pacific units."

The Besson Class Logistics Support Vessel, designated an LSV-4, belongs to the 45th Sustainment Brigade, and is considered a ligherage vessel, which is a small craft designed to carry and deliver cargo from ship to shore. It is one of the Pacific's 26 Army watercraft assets stationed at either Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, or Yokohama North Dock, Japan. The group includes various types of vessels, tugs, a barge crane, a modular causeway system, and a Harbormaster Command and Control Center.

LSV-4 recently joined its Pacific counterparts in demonstrating their synchronized capabilities in action during Combined Joint Logistics Over the Shore 13, or CJLOTS 13, the largest joint/combined exercise conducted in the Pacific Theater in 20 years.

"Logistics over the shore is the process of loading and unloading ships without the benefit of deepdraft-capable, fixed port facilities," explained Chief Warrant Officer 4 Justin Trenary, an 8th TSC Army mariner and expert in Army Watercraft capabilities. "CJLOTS 13 provided a joint/combined validation of that process on the shores of Dogu Beach, South Korea."

During the exercise, more than 2,400 personnel and equipment from five services representing two nations were guided by the Harbor Master Command and Control Center as they built a modular causeway system, dug a landing site and stabbed the beach with a 1,200 foot pier. The LSV-4 then transported cargo from the USNS Bobo directly to the pier for movement to the beach.

"This enhances the Army's expeditionary capabilities," McHugh said, "And like the Soldiers here, it is a great asset providing tremendous flexibility and endurance for operations in the Pacific."

"It also validates something I've long believed," he said, "that some of our nation's best sailors are Soldiers."