On board USS Peleliu (LHA 5)
- Picture this, a ship, within a ship, so to speak. A Landing Craft Utility (LCU) is
basically a smaller version of any other ship. On board Peleliu we LCU`s 1666,
1633, 1630, and 1635 are parked inside the well deck.
“Our overall capabilities are transporting Marines and their associated
equipment from ship to shore. We are able to travel up to 11 knots and can
accommodate up to 300,000 pounds of cargo like trucks and ammo, or we
can transport a full complement of 350 combat-ready Marines,” said Chief
(Select) Engineman (SW) Timothy Yarrington of ACU-1.
An LCU is a small ship with the similar capabilities using two main and
three auxiliary machinery spaces, armory and magazine. Inside, it has modern
navigation and communications systems to get Marines and their equipment to the
mission ashore. “We have everything that the Peleliu has, but smaller onboard, and no
aircraft, We have UHF-VHF and HF fixed radio systems along with crew-served weapons
(50 cal and M240 machine guns). We eat, sleep and work aboard the craft,
even when it’s in the ship`s well,” said Senior Chief Quartermaster (SW/AW)
Christopher Lardie, Craftmaster of LCU-1666
Facilities on the 1666 are smaller than they are on a ship, but they accommodate
the crew of ten. The long stainless steel galley gives the feel of a small railcar
diner. A stacked washer and dryer fill space inside the two-toilet and shower
head, with pocket doors providing some privacy. Below decks, a lounge adjoins a
two-person stateroom and berthing space. “We can sustain ourselves out at sea
for at least ten days and over 1200 miles without support of the Peleliu, however
our limitations are with regard to food and fuel, as we only have the capability
to carry 3500 gallons of fuel and 10 days of fresh and frozen food. Water is not an
issue, as the craft is capable of making it by means of our reverse osmosis system,”
The crew of LCU-1666 is made up of Sailors from five different ratings manned
for their particular jobs to maintain and navigate the craft, and feed this small
crew. The standard complement is a Craftmaster who is the Conning Officer
(Officer in Charge), and a Chief Engineer who is in charge of all engineering
spaces, CHT (collection, holding and transfer) and potable water. One Culinary
Specialist prepares meals for the crew; an Electrician’s Mate handles the battery
power and LCU power, a Quartermaster safely navigates the craft and handles all
communications, two Boatswain’s Mates maintain the interior and exterior of the
craft and three Enginemen maintain the engines and generators. All crew members
are fully qualified in all watch stations to include helmsman, throttleman, line
handler, sounding and security, and force protection.
Peleliu`s Deck Department handles lines, as well as the craft`s entrances and
exits from the well deck during condition Three-Alpha evolutions. Once the LCU
crosses the sill of the well deck in a slow and controlled manner, mooring lines
are passed from the wing wall to the craft line handlers, where they are secured
to the craft’s bits. The Peleliu`s line handlers assist in positioning the LCU.
On board LCU 1666, the three person deck division handles the mooring
lines and ground tackle, the movement of personnel and positioning of all vehicles
and cargo during the offloads, and maintaining all damage control equipment.
“Overall, the whole experience is like parking an $80,000 Cadillac inside of a
narrow garage,” said Lardie.
The size of the crew makes espirit de corps and job satisfaction incredibly
important. Getting 350 Marines and their equipment from the ship to shore is a task
in which Lardie takes pride. “It’s probably one of the best jobs in
the Navy,” said Lardie. “It’s shipboard life. It’s good living with a small but good
and knowledgeable crew. It’s good to be able to rely on each other and know they
will do the same. We’re self-sustaining,” said Lardie.