Sitting at the top of a small tower and strapped into a chair that overlooks the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) is Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Brian A. Yeomans, Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) 56 engineer. The small tower sits on the starboard side of LCAC 56. Yeomans is waiting to start the craft, and exit the well deck into the Pacific Ocean. Inside the tower, navigation of the craft takes place, and is where the engineer sits during operations.
Yeomans has spent 18 years in the Navy and is currently attached to Assault Craft Unit 5 (ACU) which will be deploying with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). He has worked on craft through deployments with amphibious ships, participated in relief aid, done humanitarian missions and is currently in a leading role as a leading petty officer for his craft.
The job of the GSM is to work on and maintain gas turbine engines, which power the craft. The LCAC is powered by four gas turbine engines, and two auxiliary powered units. The main engines provide lift and drive the prop so that the craft can propel through the water. Craft can hold up to 180 people or 120 combat loaded Marines.
“It’s used as a ship to shore connector, for moving Marines and their equipment.” says Yeomans. His day to day duties include monitoring and maintaining the engineering plant. He is also the on-scene leader for firefighting capabilities, and work center supervisor.
“We bring a totally different element to the war-fighting capability. We can tote more weight because of the armament of the vehicle and the upgrades in modern warfare technology and fighting. We’re faster. Speed is our ally.” he adds. The LCAC makes the land assault possible for amphibious ships.
Yeomans has been working on craft since 2006 and enjoys his job. “With an LCAC, there is always something to do,” he explains. His favorite thing about his job is the crew that he works with. An LCAC is manned by a crew of five people. Hull Maintenance Technician Fireman Kyle Crawford, who works with Yeomans, agrees by saying, “I love the LCAC community and I think it’s a great place to be. We work with good people and we take care of each other.”
“A sense of accomplishment becomes a little bit greater than that of when you work on a ship sometimes, because you only have five people to complete the mission,” said Yeomans. As a leader Yeomans says that flexibility has been one of the greatest assets he has learned. “The best laid plan is always subject to change, you can get a curve ball at any moment which adds to the excitement and adrenaline rush of our job,” he says. “You don’t get mad, you don’t get angry. You have to be patient, and go with the flow.”
Crawford says about Yeomans, “He is one of the most crafty people I’ve ever met in my life. I think he’s a great mentor, and he’s taught me a lot.” He explains that Yeomans takes great time to show him how things work aboard the craft and has that patience.
In addition to putting Marines on the beach, Yeomans appreciates the LCACs Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) capability. ACU 5 transported firefighting equipment out to a Catalina fire a few years ago. “We loaded up fire trucks, volunteers and rescue aids that they needed and got them out to Catalina in about an hour whereas the ferry would’ve taken them four hours to get there. Not only do we do things for the Navy, we provide aid and assistance anywhere else,” he said.
One of the most rewarding experiences of his career on an LCAC has been a humanitarian mission to East Timor-Leste. “We hit the beach and brought aid in, and some of the crew went and did community relations projects. What I remember the most is the kids. One of our guys would play guitar and they would sit around him and listen. We would share snacks with them and played soccer too,” says Yeomans.
For Yeomans, this will be his last deployment, and he hopes to make it a memorable one. “I would like to see a couple of places I haven’t seen yet so I can check them off my map. It’s going to be one of those last nostalgic runs,” he says quietly.
“There’s no place I’d rather be than on LCACs,” he concludes.