By Kevin Fleming, 401st Army Field Support BrigadeAugust 9, 2019
KUWAIT NAVAL BASE, Kuwait -- 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait personnel returned two vessels to the Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 inventory Aug. 7, here, after two Army maritime crews concluded their transportation mission in the Arabian Gulf.
The nine-month transportation mission was conducted in support of the entire theater, meaning these seafaring Soldiers were involved with multiple operations within U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility.
"I'm impressed by the teamwork and resiliency of these Soldiers who live in such close conditions for extended periods of time," said Lt. Col. Curtis Perkins, following his visit at the turn-in site. Perkins is the commander of 401st AFSBn-Kuwait, which operates APS-5.
"Their professionalism during this turn-in process set the conditions to prepare and issue these watercraft for future requirements," he said.
Both crews from the 97th Transportation Company, 7th Sustainment Brigade (Expeditionary), together returned two Landing Craft Utility vessels, each with thousands of individual pieces of equipment that had to be inventoried.
"We laid everything out and walked down the line with [APS-5 personnel] to record the items, then we put everything where it belonged," said Staff Sgt. James Barton, watercraft engineer, 97th TC, 7th SB, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
"The turn-in process usually runs pretty smoothly because we set everything up prior," Barton said.
While underway, Army maritime transportation units must be fully self-reliant for weeks at a time, meaning they have to know and trust their equipment implicitly, including fire response gear, weapons, and rescue tools.
That's why Staff Sgt. Kristopher Spearman, watercraft maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge, 401st AFSBn-Kuwait, said accountability and the highest level of equipment maintenance must be achieved. He added that getting the process right takes hundreds of hours and numerous recertification tasks to validate all the various watercraft at APS-5.
"Soldiers come to APS-5 and sign for equipment, so they're accountable for their entire vessel," he said. "They sign for it from us, and they get everything that's in the [technical manual] to maintain the vessel and to conduct missions."
Spearman said the 401st AFSBn's watercraft personnel are laser-focused on getting the returned vessels back to the appropriate level of readiness.
APS-5 has one of the largest stocks of Army watercraft, accounting for more than 25% of the Army's total stock.
"It's difficult enough to maintain just these two vessels, let alone all the diverse vessels we have at APS-5," said Spearman.
The vessels stored at APS-5 are capable of heavy cargo transportation operations, which can include the movement of multiple M88 Armored Recovery Vehicles, M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, and other very heavy equipment.
"We carry all sorts of things," said Warrant Officer Max Janusz, vessel master, 97th TC, 7th SB. "At one point, we even had Navy boats on our deck."
The vessel master of an Army watercraft is the position equivalent to a civilian boat captain. Janusz is also the unit commander.
The inventoried vessels were the Molino Del Ray and the Mechanicsville.
This routine turn-in comes at a time when the Army is studying whether to reshape its maritime fleet to better address mission priorities. APS-5 watercraft operators said they are ready for whatever comes next.
"In our complex world of military logistics, it can be difficult to see ahead and know the best way forward, but for us it's very simple -- make it ready and be accountable," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rory Morris, watercraft maintenance officer in charge, 401st AFSBn-Kuwait.
"Whatever happens next to this equipment -- whether these vessels are headed for another mission or headed to the auction block -- I can say for certainty they will leave here in a functional status."
The 401st AFSBn-Kuwait owns and operates the entirety of APS-5, which in addition to the watercraft set includes an Armored Brigade Combat Team set, Infantry Brigade Combat Team set, a Sustainment Brigade set, and other equipment totaling about $6 billion in value.
401st AFSBn-Kuwait is a subordinate command under the 401st Army Field Support Brigade, which oversees most of the U.S. owned materiel within the CENTCOM area of responsibility.