Faces of MSC: Harlos Brand

Harlos Brand – a Mobile, Alabama, native – served in the Navy for nearly 10 years, and joined Military Sealift Command in 2004, serving as an able seaman and boatswain mate aboard several ships, including USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) and USNS Supply (T-AOE 6).

3rd Officer Harlos Brand

3rd Officer Harlos Brand

In November 2009, Brand was accepted into MSC’s Unlicensed to Licensed Mariner Degree Program.* Through this program, MSC supported Brand during four years of study at Texas Maritime Academy, Texas A&M University.

Brand graduated cum laude May 10, with a bachelor’s degree in marine transportation. He also passed the U.S. Coast Guard’s examination to receive a merchant marine license. The following blog is an excerpt from an interview with Brand about his experiences with MSC and Texas A&M.

What was your previous job as a civil service mariner?  I last sailed as Boatswain Mate aboard USNS Supply. However, I was promoted to Boatswain (Bosn’) just prior to entering Texas Maritime Academy.

What did a typical day look like for you? 

Well, that’s the beauty of working aboard a Combat Logistics Force vessel such as Supply – there is no such thing as a typical day. As a BM assigned to the deck department, I wore many hats. Each morning began with a brief, informal Chief Mate’s muster. A less active day consisted of performing daily maintenance, preservation and repair of deck department‘s equipment and spaces. During pier-side cargo operations, I would be assigned station team leader, forklift driver or cargo boom operator. Below deck, in the cargo holds, I supervised a team of able seamen.

About two hours prior to delivering the cargo to an aircraft carrier and her strike group, the boatswain mates would pre-stage cargo on station according to weight and designated station. During an underway replenishment, each boatswain mate will either supervise a rig team or operate forklifts. To witness the well-trained, synchronized USNS Supply cargo department during an UNREP was to witness art in motion.

Why did you decide to pursue a career as a deck officer? 

Becoming a deck officer has been the object of my ambition dating back to my Navy days. The opportunity knocked at my door once before, but I failed to answer. In 2009, Capt. William Thomas, then master of USNS Supply, informed me of the new program. He expressed his confidence in me provided me with a letter of recommendation and urged me to take action and submit a package to be considered for the program. Soon after, Capt. Thomas, then-1st Officers John Longo, Aleana Lytle and Victor Martino also encouraged me and wrote great recommendation letters. So, with a rock-solid support system and my wife’s blessing, I sought out to challenge myself.

What stood out to you about Texas A&M?  There were two essential reasons why I chose Texas A&M over the other six academies. Primarily, it was the location. The Texas Gulf Coast at Galveston is only a seven-hour commute from my hometown of Mobile, Alabama. And, Texas Maritime Academy alumni are the only grads of the seven maritime academies who can make the claim to being a graduate of the nationally renowned Texas A&M University.

What were some of the highlights and challenges at school?  There was no better feeling than on Jan. 16, 2014, when I walked away from the exam proctor’s table and hearing him congratulate me for passing all seven modules of the Third Officer’s Unlimited License Exam. It literally felt like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders; a huge sense of accomplishment.

As for the challenges at school, the one thing that gave me the greatest joy – the USCG License Exam – also gave me the greatest grief. The intense one-month-long, seven-days-a-week, 12-hours-a-day preparation program was by far one of the most challenging moments, next to burying my grandmother, that I have ever experienced, but it was all worth it.


Do you want to share any parting thoughts?  

In the beginning, it seemed totally  inconceivable that I could actually return to school after the age of 40 and complete four years of college. But, I  was determined to keep my commitment to myself, my family and MSC by seeing this journey all the way through. Primarily, I pray that I have influenced and inspired my family, friends and fellow CIVMARS who are aiming to advance in their careers.

Thanks to my wife, Lasheta, for her support and holding on when things got tough.  I would also like to thank Rear Adm. Reilly for the program, Rear Adm. Buzby for picking it up, and Rear Adm. Shannon for completing the commitment. A huge thank you to my Washington D.C. support team: John Pkitnik, Kyrm Hickman and John Quandt. They all were always there for me whenever I needed anything. Last, but certainly not least, I thank God for keeping me focused, patient and for ultimately seeing me through.

*MSC froze the Unlicensed to Licensed Mariner Degree Program, accepting no additional enrollees after April 7, 2010.


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