WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- If a ship isn't loaded correctly, it isn't seaworthy, and all sorts of bad things can happen, said Sgt. 1st Class Humberto Castellanos.
Castellanos, a cargo noncommissioned officer of the 832nd Transportation Battalion, located on Blount Island, near Jacksonville, Florida, is responsible for ensuring the proper loading and unloading of ships. His military occupational specialty is 88H, cargo specialist. He has served in the Army nearly 17 years.
Managing the loading and unloading often requires speaking Spanish to the crew, he said, proud of his Hispanic heritage. The Army is currently recognizing the contributions of Soldiers like Castellanos with its observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
The Army maintains a wide variety of ships, everything from the river dredges used by the Army Corps of Engineers, to the landing craft utility used for ship-to-shore access, to the larger ships like the logistics support vessel that the Army uses to move equipment worldwide.
It's these larger vessels that Castellanos now works on, as well as contracted vessels.
During loading, Castellanos must factor in the size, weight, and arrangement of vehicles, containers and trailers. Loading a vessel in such a way that makes it top heavy or too heavy on one side or its end could compromise its seaworthiness.
Just as importantly, everything must be secured correctly and tied down so as to prevent any "loose cannons" from moving freely about during choppy seas and stormy weather.
Each ship comes with its own onboard crane. The crane operator must move materiel in and out of the ship in a safe manner, which makes skillful supervision key to keeping things shipshape, Castellanos said.
Castellanos' last duty assignment was at Fort Eustis, Virginia, where he was a platoon sergeant at an Inland Cargo Transfer Company. At Fort Eustis, they were the smaller landing craft utility, he said. Loading the vessels was much simpler than loading the larger vessels he works on today.
Castellanos said Blount Island's Army and contractor vessels ply primarily to Central and South American ports of call, which is where his Spanish language skills come in handy. The crews on most of the ships speak Spanish only.
Castellanos' first language is Spanish. He grew up in Reynosa, a town in Mexico not far from where he was born in McAllen, Texas. As a boy, his parents taught him such values as honesty, trustworthiness and teamwork, values that overlap with those of the Army, which made the Army a good fit, he said.
Castellanos married his high school sweetheart from Reynosa. He said she's glad he decided to make the Army a career. When Castellanos eventually retires, he plans to continue serving the United States as a customs and border patrol agent.
Q: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A Drug Enforcement Agency agent.
Q: Do you have any family members who have served in the military?
A: I have one uncle who retired from the Navy, two cousins who served in the Navy, about 10 years each, and my son, currently in the Army stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas.
Q: Can you elaborate on what your role as the terminal operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge entails?
A: My job is ensuring that all the equipment gets unloaded and uploaded safely on the vessels, ensuring that they are using the right equipment and the proper tie-downs.
Q: As a Hispanic American Soldier, is there anything you reflect on during Hispanic Heritage Month?
A: Yes. I remember when I was in Mexico growing up, it was one of the best times of my life.
Q: What do you miss the most and least about your hometown?
A: I miss my family.
Q: What is your favorite movie quote and why?
A: "The world is yours" from the movie "Scarface." Everything is possible if you put your mind into it.
Q: What hobbies do you enjoy when you are not at work?
A: Fishing, soccer and boxing.
Q: If you had one wish, what would it be and why?
A: To go back in time to become a DEA agent and, of course, marry my wife again.
Q: What superhero power do you think would be great to have and why?
A: Immortality. If I lived forever, think how much knowledge I'd gain over time.