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Naval Amphibious Force, TF 51-5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade


Naval Amphibious Force, TF 51-5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade

Naval Support Activity Bahrain
Boatswain Kien Williams

By SEAPOWER Magazine | TF 51/5 | March 12, 2018


I’ve been doing this for 28 years with MSC [Military Sealift Command]. I’ve been on the Puller since June 2015 — two and a half years now. I sail as ship’s boatswain, so I do a number of things.

I’m in charge of crane operations on the pier, assisting the movement of ammo. I’m in charge of anchoring and ship maneuvering in and out of port. I’m MHE [material handling equipment] instructor. I also deal with maintenance, preservation of the ship and receiving fuel during an underway replenishment at sea. And I’m the supervisor for all of our nine civilian able-bodied seamen. I also work hand in hand with the Navy crew boatswain’s mates and chiefs.

I’ve been a sailing boatswain for 16 years. I could tell you a lot of things, but the most interesting is being with this hybrid crew. I came to see a lot of what the Navy does — simple things like putting a boat in the water. We, the civilian and military Sailors, do that together. I see how they do things in their world, differently from how we do it, but similar. It’s the best part of my life, and hopefully I can continue doing it because this is where I want to retire — from the Puller.

I’ve been on 12 MSC ships, actually two USS ships — one of them the Puller, and the other is the Frank Cable.

Most of my guys are older. Most of theirs [the Navy’s] are younger — 18 years old, just coming out of high school. We do just about the same things — work with ammo, move cargo, move fuel. We work hand in hand. Of course, we have a civilian captain. But the [Navy commanding officer] CO is in charge of the ship.

The flight deck on this ship is really huge compared to what I’m used to, landing four helos at a time, compared to just landing one. We can land all different kinds of them — MV-22 Ospreys, MH-53Es. And they all can be armed.

I’ve never been in the military. When I was younger, I thought about going into the Navy. My uncle told me about Military Sealift Command. You only have to do six months. If I didn’t like it, I could quit. We’re talking now, and I’m still doing MSC.

I love the job. I started out from the lowest — serving food and cleaning bathrooms. I worked my way up and took every class I could take to get promoted. I moved from the steward department to the deck department and sailed as an ordinary seaman. I had to get sea time, which is one year. Then I had to study for my AB [able-bodied seaman] ticket at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Baltimore.

Most of the training, though, took place on the ship. I had a lot of older guys who were over me — tying knots, lifesaving, moving ammunition with a forklift.

I really enjoyed working with many different kinds of forces. My favorite was the CCA [combat craft assault], going over to the areas where the [naval special warfare
units who use them] are based. It was a spectacular thing to watch the forces fast rope from the helicopters, where they slide down the rope to our deck.

People trust me to lift these boats. I’m humbled. I appreciate every day being on this ship, working with the Navy.