Why are Army LCUs & LSVs sitting at the dock at Ft Eustis VA and not underway heading to Puerto Rico?
By Michael Carr, US Army Watercraft Master (Ret) – Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, then Hurricane Irma collided with Puerto Rico and smashed through Florida, followed by Hurricane Maria devastating Caribbean Islands before decapitating Puerto Rico.
Incomprehensible damage from these horrendous storms, including destroyed infrastructure & lack of transportation capabilities, present conditions for which US Army Watercraft were conceived and designed, i.e. providing logistical support in degraded and unimproved ports, and the ability to land on unimproved beaches.
Only the US Army operates Logistical Support (LSV), Land Craft Utility (LCU), and Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM) vessels. Within the Army inventory there are eight LSVs, 35 LCUs, and multitude of LCMs. These vessels are stationed throughout the world, with a good number here in United States, in particular Baltimore MD, Ft Belvoir VA, Ft Eustis VA, Morehead City NC, and Tampa FL.
Why have they not been deployed to help in relief efforts in Texas, Florida Keys, and Puerto Rico? LCUs in particular, are an ideal platform for relief support. LCUs, at 174 ft LOA, can work independently for 18 days, with a range of over 10,000 miles. They are capable of beach landings and retractions, while carrying in excess of 350 tons of cargo, which can include rolling and tracked vehicles, standard and non-standard containers, fuel bladders, etc.
LSVs, at 300 ft LOA are fully self-deploying. Equipped with bow and stern ramps, they can load and offload cargo on beaches and improvised piers. They are capable of carrying 82 ISO containers on deck, or 2,000 tons of assorted cargo. LSVs can make 10,000 gallons of fresh water daily, have incinerators for burning trash, and have tankage for over 250,000 gallons of fuel. LSVs can sustain themselves for months at a time, having a crew of 32.
As I read more and more of the devastation in Texas, Florida Keys, and Puerto Rico; no power, no fresh water, no communications…… I know Army LSVs, LCUs, and LCMs could easily be providing support. Moving from beach to beach, offloading generators, fuel, food, medical supplies, providing power, communications, and medical care.
When the US Army designed their Watercraft units and commands it was for just such a mission. Sail to remote locations, where there is little to no infrastructure, no
command and control centers, no support services, and provide the equipment, Soldiers and talent to set up a functioning logistics over the beach operation.
The Army trains with the Navy in just such a capability, called Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS). Now is the time for the Army and Navy to put their JLOTS talent and training to work in the real world. There should be a massive and immediate effort to “invade” Texas, Florida Keys, and Puerto Rico with our ability, and prove our ability to insert and operate in a truly degraded environment.
NOAA’s Coast Pilot #5, which covers Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, and what should be no surprise to any proactive and forward thinking Emergency Response or Military leader, is this: there exist hundreds of protected, sheltered and accessible ports along all of Puerto Rico’s North, East, South and West Coasts.
All these ports have sand beaches easily accessible to Army LCM, LCU and LSV landing craft. All locations have roads, and industrial capabilities. Its fully within our military’s ability to setup individual mini JLOTS operations in multiple ports, which can all push inland and quickly link-up.
Establish a beachhead, set down buoys and lanes into the beaches, pump fuel and water into bladders, and establish an organized command and control and throughput operation. There are Navy Beachmaster Units, and SEABEES who can assist.
Why are Army LCUs & LSVs sitting at the dock at Ft Eustis VA, and elsewhere along the US East Coast and not underway heading to Puerto Rico?
Michael W. Carr is a graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy and served in the US Coast Guard and US Army Watercraft Field. Carr holds a Masters Degree in Unconventional Warfare & Special Operations from American Military University. He is a former US Navy Diving & Salvage Officer and is the author of “Weather Predicting Simplified: How to Read Weather Charts and Satellite Images”, McGraw Hill International.