Sailors and Marines aboard USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) assigned to Beachmaster Unit (BMU) 1 left for deployment, Aug. 23, without the Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo (LARC) vehicles; instead they are operating two Expeditionary Watercraft (EWC), a first for a Western Pacific Deployment.
“There’s a lot of mechanical power that the LARC offers that the EWC doesn’t, but in many cases I’d be willing to make that sacrifice if it meant we save that much money and time and instead lets us focus on other things,” said Seaman Cameron Cooper, one of the watercraft operators.
The smaller EWC’s which replaced the LARC’s provide both functionality and maneuverability without the high cost.
"The EWCs are a lot more maneuverable then a LARC actually was,” said Chief Boatswains Mate Allen Soto, beach party team commander.
“It does not have the advantage of transporting personnel from point a to point b, but in reality that is an LCU [Landing Craft Utility] responsibility.”
Soto added that the EWC does the same assignment that a LARC would do but they're a lot faster, more economical, and he says they are a lot safer when it comes to travelling through the surf zone.
“I’ve been here for a couple of years and the amount of resources that go into LARCs is immense,” says Cooper. “Every time we go out, we go through this process of pre-starting them and restarting them – four or five hours.” He added that parts for the LARC’s were often difficult to find and expensive because of their highly specialized nature.
Not only are the new watercraft cheaper, saving BMU 1 money on maintenance and repairs, they are also lighter and multi-mission capable.
“We can accomplish the same mission with EWC minus the personnel transport, but it’s just a lot cheaper,” says Gunners Mate 2nd Class Alfred Santacroce.
The new watercraft have depth sonar and navigational lights. The watercraft launch from the LCU, and relay water depth information back to the ship.
“We are responsible for helping out the ARG [Amphibious Ready Group] with ship-to-shore movement,” says Santacroce.
Cooper added that they facilitate craft landings of amphibious vehicles, like LCUs, LCACs, directing traffic to and from the beach.
Beachmaster Unit One is stationed out of Naval Amphibious Base (NAB), Coronado and is currently on deployment aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49).