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NEWS | June 29, 2017

Army quartermaster: A vessel’s living compass

By Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

After months at sea, the ocean starts to resemble the desert, but watching the sun rise and fall over the open ocean provides as much direction to him as he does for the ship.

For U.S. Army Spc. Miguel Ruelas Trejo’s, 335th Transportation Detachment, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) quartermaster, the sunrise and sunset are his favorite things about working aboard the General Frank S. Besson-class logistics support vessel.

“When you are out there and you don’t see land for a while, everywhere you look, 360-degrees, you see the same thing: the sky, clouds, the horizon and water,” said Ruelas Trejo. “That’s the view day in and day out.”

During his time aboard the LSV, Ruelas Trejo has trained among his fellow Soldiers to develop his skills as a quartermaster and watercraft Soldier to help sustain port operations fight. 

As quartermaster, Ruelas Trejo’s role is pivotal, as he ensures everything required to get the ship moving is accomplished, by completing manifests, mathematical calculations and logs. He also tracks navigation information using oceanic and atmospheric charts, while recording ship conditions such as speed and direction, wind direction, cloud conditions and water depth. Logging this information helps provide an accurate description of what the crew was doing and what conditions they were in, in the event of an incident.

“The primary mission of the LSV, and the watercraft field in general, is sustaining the fight and being able to establish port operations anywhere in the world,” said Ruelas Trejo. “The specialty of our boat is we can easily run up on a beach, drop the ramp, load and unload Army equipment. We can set up port operations worldwide. For example, if there was a tsunami in the Caribbean, we could establish a new port and bring in supplies to that community.”

According to Ruelas Trejo, as Army mariners on an LSV, that serves 24-hour port operations, the crew prides themselves on being “jacks-of-all trades.”

“It’s important that Soldiers are skilled in multiple platforms, especially in a small detachment like ours where there’s only 32 of us,” said Ruelas Trejo. “We have eight officers and 23 enlisted personnel, which means if one of us it out, it impacts the mission. Since we are spread over multiple duties, we need people with a wide variety of skills to continue with services and checks to make sure the vessel stays operational.”

According to Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Reynolds, 335th Transportation Detachment, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) marine deck officer, a quartermaster is the personification of a “battle buddy” for navigation officers and the crew.

“Quartermaster is a historic role. Back in the pirate days, bright, executed young men took the position,” said Reynolds. “Here it’s the same thing -- we rely on Spc. Ruelas Trejo to keep the charts updated and perform the tedious navigation-work the quartermaster is responsible for. All his work helps the whole crew.”

Although his vessel serves primarily as a training platform for the Maritime Intermodal Training Department students to prepare them for deployments, the specialists’ team also trains with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines in search and seizure missions and vessel boarding procedures. The ship also is used during joint logistic over-the-shore operations in Kuwait and Hawaii twice a year to train on cargo loading and transporting vehicles, containers and bulk materials to shore.

According to Ruelas Trejo, being a quartermaster has its perks, specifically when it comes to growth in his specialty. Working hands-on with the vessel’s NCOs and warrant officers, quartermasters get exposed to various levels of training, including what maritime officers receive from the schoolhouse.

“You need to have knowledge about the job to perform it correctly,” said Ruelas Trejo. “You have tools like compasses, pencils and erasers, but the biggest thing for me is having the knowledgeable NCOs and warrant officers that have helped to train me and make sure I am doing the job correctly.” 

One of the most rewarding thing as a member that Ruelas Trejo has found himself, is traveling around the world with his crew, being able to integrate more than Soldiers working at forward-operating bases.

“Working aboard this ship, I get to see a lot of the world that a typical Soldier wouldn’t normally get to see,” said Ruelas Trejo. “We get to sail in and out of ports, seeing different cultures, working with the locals there, and building relationships with them. This job has exposed me to a broader view of the world.”

Whether at sea or home at Fort Eustis, Ruelas Trejo and his crews’ fight will keep them moving through open waters in hopes to maintain the Army’s port operations.