By Natalie ColeDecember 28, 2010
CAMP PATRIOT, Kuwait - The United States Ship Carter Hall sailed into the Gulf off the coast of Camp Patriot, Dec. 23, to offload Marines and cargo for further travel into the Central Command area. With only two days left until Christmas, the Sailors and Marines were facing a days-long grind of unloading their tightly-packed ship; this all changed with the help of the Army.
The turquoise waters off the coast of Camp Patriot are home to Army watercraft and their crewmembers, known as boaties. In the spirit of joint-service collaboration, Army boaties offered up two of their specialized cargo boats, the Logistics Support Vessel-6 and the Landing Craft Utility-2029, to unload the USS Carter Hall at sea.
Typically, the Navy uses Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft to unload a ship at sea. LCACs can unload no more than a few vehicles at a time, which would have made the process of offloading the fully stocked USS Carter Hall (Landing Ship Dock - 50) a lengthy affair.
"We were given two to three days to be able to do the offload with our own landing craft, but thanks to the Army landing craft we've been able to expedite our timeline. We [were] able to offload everything that we had planned on putting to shore in less than one day," said Cmdr. George Doyon, commanding officer, USS Carter Hall.
The LSV-6, the larger of the two Army boats, took on two full loads of armored vehicles, containers, combat gear and personnel. The LCU-2029 took on one load. In all, the operation took less than 24 hours, making it possible for the Navy crew to be at port and the Marines to be on land in time for Christmas.
In order to unload while afloat, the USS Carter Hall dropped its massive stern (rear) gate to form a ramp that dropped off into the sea. Then, the LSV-6 pulled up to the Carter Hall's stern gate ramp and lowered its bow (front) gate on top of the Carter Hall's stern gate. The two gates formed an approximately 30-foot bridge strong enough and wide enough for armored vehicles and forklifts with containers to traverse. The LCU-2029 carried out the same procedure when its time came to take on cargo.
Warrant Officer Robert Penner, harbor master for the 164th Transportation Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, helped organize the joint-service operation. He said the stern-gate marriage demonstrated the handiness of the Army's boats, which typically load and unload cargo at ports. "This just shows more of their capabilities and versatility for the Army watercraft and how they can work with other services in different aspects," he said.
Doyon said the USS Carter Hall offloaded supplies with Army LCU boats in early 2010 as part of the American military's relief efforts in Haiti. The Dec. 23 offloading in the Gulf is the second time the Army and Navy have joined in such an effort, and it is the first time the two services have ever done so in the Gulf. Additionally, Doyon and Penner each pointed out that the Dec. 23 offloading was the first time an Army LSV has ever done a stern gate marriage a Navy ship.
"We do amphibious operations all the time. That's what we're all about, but being able to operate with the Army like we did with the LCU 2000s off of Haiti earlier this year gives my crew a chance to see another side of the sea service, especially operating with folks that they normally don't get to work with," Doyon said, adding that pooling resources improves operations. "It expands all of our capability[ies]. It makes us all better."
The crewmembers of the LSV-6 and the LCU-2029 fall under the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, Third Army.