An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | July 18, 2012

628th LRS Port Operations keeps boats afloat

By Senior Airman Anthony Hyatt Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Stations' shoreline spans approximately 16 miles of the Cooper River and 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Sailors, Airmen and Department of Defense contractors are patrolling the shoreline on Harbor Security Boats.

Before the shoreline can be patrolled, these boats must be sea worthy and that's where the work of three individuals comes into play.

The 628th Logistics Readiness Squadron Port Operations is currently operated by U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Wilson, Port Operations officer, and two maintenance contractors, Thomas White and Frank Gregory. Wilson is responsible to the Joint Base Charleston commander for the overall safety of ship movements within the JB Charleston - Weapons Station port, which includes Wharf Alpha, Pier Bravo, Pier Charlie, Pier Edwards and the TC Dock.

"The Port Operations Officer also coordinates all U.S. Navy ship visits to Charleston, which are primarily to support training opportunities with the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps at the Citadel," said Wilson.

Port Operations is also responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of six small boats; that's where Gregory and White's responsibilities begin.

"Four of the boats we maintain are 27-foot long Sea Arks, which are designated as Harbor Security Boats used by the 628th Security Forces Squadron," said Wilson. "We ensure two HSBs are in the water at all times with a third boat on a two-hour standby to support the Nuclear Power Training Unit."

Two additional Boston Whaler boats, one 19-feet long and the other 21-feet long, are designated as work boats for Port Operations.

The Whalers are used to service the piers and move items through the water to be used with the piers or ships, such as oil booms, according to Wilson.

"While one of the Whalers can be used for an oil-spill response boat, the other Whaler includes a police package and can be used as a backup security boat if necessary [for shallow water]," Wilson said.

A Routine Day

"A typical day includes Tom or Frank arriving at 7:15 a.m. to work on paperwork for the HSBs and getting an HSB [needing service] prepped to haul out of the water," said Wilson.

Each day, White and Gregory perform two to four hours of routine maintenance on the boats. Both contractors are qualified marine-engine mechanics, certified to work on any outboard engine, but specifically Honda engines.

"My position requires me to service and maintain equipment such as 12-volt electrical equipment, depth sounders, police equipment, system gauges and air-conditioning systems to name a few," said Gregory.

Whenever an engine is replaced on a boat, Port Operations must log a 10-plus hours "break-in-period" on the engine before they can be used by security forces.

"We get to take the boats out, put some hours on the new engines and enjoy the sun and water," Wilson said with a smile. "I was born and raised 40 miles away on the upper lake and I fish the [professional] circuit on my personal time, so having this job on the waterfront makes this the perfect job for me."

After maintenance has been completed on the boats, Wilson then conducts quality assurance on White's and Gregory's work in accordance with the boat's service manual.

Most mornings, the Port Operations officer drives to each pier or wharf to perform inspections.

"I ensure that nothing is broken or leaking on the piers," said Wilson. "I also stop by Pier Edwards to confirm all of the boats are in working order before starting the day, which normally Tom has already done."

"No two days are alike," said Gregory. "When traveling to work, not knowing what to expect keeps this job exciting."

Another part of Port Operations includes keeping the waterfront clean.

"We normally get students [Direct Transit Personnel], who are in a holding status or waiting on orders, to help clean the waterfront," Wilson added.

The Hardest Part

When the Weapons Station and Air Base merged into Joint Base Charleston in October 2010, Port Operations transitioned to the 628th LRS Port Operations section.

"Understanding the Air Force and the Air Force understanding a U.S. Navy warrant officer was and is tough. The transition was very difficult for an old guy like me," said Wilson.

Now, two years later, Wilson has worked closely with Chief Petty Officer Vincent Stephens, 628th Security Forces Squadron and Commander Navy Region Southeast trainer, and the Coast Guard, in qualifying Airmen to drive Harbor Security Boats.

"One of the most gratifying things about my job is seeing Airmen, Sailors and DoD civilians working together on the water in one of 628th LRS's boats," said Wilson.

Whether it's a security boat or a cargo ship, without Port Operations none of this is possible.

"Knowing that the importance of this job helps keep this facility and our nation safe is exciting," Gregory added.