Veteran Civilian Mariner reflects on experiences at sea

Our Naval forces of U.S. 5th Fleet operate day in and day out to support missions like Operation Enduring Freedom, maritime security operations, and cooperation exercises with our partners in the region. None of these exercises, operations or daily tasks would be possible without a well-coordinated sustainment plan and the associated infrastructure. MSC provides that sustainment by working with 5th Fleet’s other task forces, and Combined Maritime Forces members, to meet supply and logistics demands of ships across the region. These three commands fulfill different aspects of the overarching sustainment mission, and work together to get our forces what they need. The following blog is part of a series focused on MSC support to 5th Fleet, written by Lt. j.g. Paul Williams, a Navy reservist who visited the Central Command AOR during May 2013.

Pat Mooney has been a civil service mariner (CIVMAR) with MSC for more than 24 years. Mr. Mooney served four years in our U.S. Navy as a Boatswain’s Mate prior to beginning his career with MSC as an ordinary seaman. He currently serves as ship’s boatswain aboard the USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO 188).

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Q. What is one of the most significant changes you have seen in your career at sea with MSC?
A. One of the changes is the quality and capabilities of the ships.  When I started out with MSC, we had World War II-era ships in service and others that had old and outdated equipment. The ships of today, like the Humphreys, are floating palaces…they have wide open spaces, gymnasiums and a lot of other amenities. 

From a personnel standpoint, we also had a lot more retired Navy Veterans who served on our crews when I started my career. We still have a lot of Veterans but we also have a lot of crew members who have never served in the military and are either coming right out of high school or the maritime academies.

From a capabilities standpoint, with all of the technology and experience we have with underway replenishments, we can do practically anything to serve the Navy’s warfighting fleet.

Q. Are there differences in the CIVMARs who are coming into MSC now than when you first started and what do today’s CIVMARs need to be successful in their careers?
A. Today’s CIVMARs have good attitudes, work ethic, they are on time and resourceful.

To be a successful CIVMAR today, you really have to be a go-getter and self-starter.  The successful CIVMARs will want to advance and will go to the schools and get a broad range of experience while serving on the ship. MSC has a lot of opportunities for new CIVMARS today. They have schools to advance their careers that they did not have when I first started.

Q. What was a challenge when you started your career as a CIVMAR that remains one today?
A. Telling my wife I am going to sea (laughs).  While our length of tours started at nine months and then dropped to six months and finally to the current four months, this is still a long time at sea. We have also become so efficient with performing underway replenishments that we are spending less time in port. Now we are in port to pickup fuel and cargo and return to sea in less than 18 hours. I wish we could spend another day in port to catch our breath. The underway replenishments take a lot out of you and we are doing more of them now than we ever have. 

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your work with MSC?
A. I really enjoy teaching people the technical aspects about being a CIVMAR.  It is really rewarding when you teach people how to work on the deck, how to work winches and cargo rigging.

I also find it very satisfying to perform underway replenishments and know that we are keeping the combatant ships at sea and on station longer than we ever have before.

Humphreys is a Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler and was specifically built for our Navy. In addition to ship and aircraft fuel, Humphreys provides Navy and other coalition partners with military cargo and supplies.

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