Move over, swabbies: US Army has own navy

It’s no secret, but many people are unaware of the fact that our Army does indeed have its own navy.
Having a strong, efficient, modern army does not mean just manpower and weaponry. It also involves having the means to carry and deliver whatever the soldiers need, where they need it and when they need it.
That’s the job of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps (USATC). Their history includes the use of mules, horses and, for a brief time, even camels.
That’s right, camels! Brought to the United States in 1855 as an experiment by the U.S. Army to test their worthiness for use as a pack animal in America’s hot and arid Southwest.
But, you know, the Army’s camels are another story, perhaps worth telling at another time.
Sometimes you can find Army boats plying the rivers and lakes of our nation delivering supplies to nearby bases, but most of the Army’s larger vessels have their home base on either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, or are overseas on assignment.
The men and women of the Army Transportation Corps (ATC) serving on ships and boats, refer to themselves as Army Mariners.
Since the ATC carries the supplies and materials the troops need, many of these supply and repair vessels can be found at various times at overseas ports, such as Hawaii, South Korea, Japan, Spain and Israel, among others.
Just in case you are wondering what the difference is between a “boat” and a “ship” … most people guess correctly that it is size.
A boat too large and heavy to be lifted onto the deck or into the hold of a ship, is itself a ship.
The ATC operates hospital ships, various types of repair ships, coastal freighters, over 4,000 tugboats, mine vessels, plus many barges and assault boats.
As the number of American overseas military bases and installations greatly increased after World War II, the need for expansion of the Army’s Transport Command increased as well. It is estimated that the Army now has approximately 130,000 vessels; most are small, unnamed and simply have an assigned number.
The latest watercraft developed for the ATC is the Maneuver Support Vessel (MSV), which comes in various sizes, the largest allowing up to 24 huge Abrams Tanks, and having aft and stern (front and rear) ramps for loading and/or unloading.
Many people are unaware of the scope of the Army’s “navy” and young people seeking the possibility of learning a lifelong job skill or needing funds for college might do well to look into the MOS (Military Occupation Skills) available in the Transportation Corps from which a new recruit can choose before basic training.
On the other hand, for those families envisioning future doctors or lawyers, there’s the Medical Corps and the Judge Advocate Corps as well as the educational benefits that follow after discharge.
The military route is not for everyone, but be it the Army’s Transportation Corps or some other job specialty, these are choices open to young men and women who might otherwise be blocked by limited funds or not-so-perfect grades.
Admittedly, I’m probably influenced by my own life experience. The GI Bill allowed me to attend college after military discharge, providing career opportunities I would not otherwise have.
If it seems that I may have strayed somewhat from the original subject, keep in mind that the “Army’s navy” is a prime example of the great variety of occupational learning and work experiences available to young people seeking to improve their lives.

Leave a Reply