As U.S. Navy ships conduct naval surface fire training off Onslow Beach, a Navy boat crew is stationed in the Intracoastal Waterway on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to protect any incoming vessels from the dangers of live-fire training. Assigned to Headquarters and Support Battalion, the crew is a critical safety asset to MCB Camp Lejeune’s Range Control section.
“The Navy boat crew plays a critical role in allowing us to maximize our training opportunities on this base,” said Lt. Col. Rich Yudt, director of range control. “Without them, we couldn’t safely do it. They support training involving the navigable waters within the jurisdiction of the commanding general of Camp Lejeune.”
MCB Camp Lejeune is the only base within the Marine Corps that maintains the capabilities of a Navy boat crew. The unique location of Onslow Beach along the Eastern Seaboard not only allows naval ships to conduct live-fire operations into the G10 impact area, but also enables personnel on ranges to fire different weapon systems out to sea necessitating an on-call Navy boat crew.
A year ago, this was easier said than done. The aluminum skiffs and sea arks that were assigned to the Navy boat crew were in disrepair. Some of the boat engines didn’t even start, said Chief Petty Officer Kristoffer Metcalf, the officer in charge of the Navy boat crew. Over the course of a year the Navy boat crew, consisting of only nine Sailors, have fixed most of the boats enabling them to patrol the waterways more efficiently.
“The Navy boat crew has taken tremendous pride in refurbishing discarded boats from other units, and making them sea and mission worthy once again,” Yudt said. “Through hard work and some additional funding from higher headquarters, a few of the boats here are indistinguishable from last year.”
Their hard work has not gone unnoticed. Through the repair of the boats, operations have increased, which has led to better relationships with the local fisherman, Metcalf said. It’s a relationship that is important for the safety of not only the fisherman, but also everyone who is on the water.
“What we do is important. A lot of the local fisherman know why we are here and come up and ask what time (we) are expected to be done,” said Seaman Tyson Post, a fireman for the Navy boat crew. “We have really started to make better relationships with the local fishermen.”
The relationship withthe fisherman is not the only relationship that has gotten better over time, said Metcalf. The Navy boat crew has been making strides with both range control, as well as the service members conducting firing on the range. The Navy boat crews are the only boats that patrol the Camp Lejeune waterway. It is important for people to be aware of the dangers and to pay attention to the warnings that are given by the Sailors, Metcalf said.
“The Navy boat crew’s relationship with Camp Lejeune Range Control reflects the enduring and mission-critical Navy-Marine Corps teamwork,” Yudt said. “With the amount of waterways we have on Camp Lejeune, it is important that we maintain the ability to do what the Navy Boat Crew does.”