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The Army mission spans the globe, and includes land, air, and water operations. To accomplish these operations the Army employs a variety of watercraft and it is the responsibility of the Soldiers of Military Occupational Specialty Watercraft Operator are a crucial element to the success of the mission.

After successfully completing 10 weeks of Army Basic Combat Training, you will attend Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia where the Army trains Watercraft Operators in the basics of seamanship and vessel operations including of shipboard customs and courtesies as well as Marlinspike seamanship.

Because safety is such an important part of this job, Watercraft Operators are taught emergency procedures such as water survival, shipboard firefighting, and damage inspection and control. Watercraft Operators train to secure all types of cargo aboard these watercraft and to operate various types of deck machinery. Watercraft Operators train to identify, interpret, and send single letter international code signals as well as the proper preservation of vessel surfaces and mechanical equipment.

After Initial Entry Training and Advanced Individual Training, Watercraft Operators work supporting Army operations where their duties may include a variety of tasks like docking and undocking watercraft, helping and anchoring, or securing cargo and equipment to the deck. Other duties may include general watercraft security as well as the inspection and maintenance of shipboard equipment, maintaining the watercraft surfaces and compartments and its emergency safety equipment

Serving as a Watercraft Operator can help you transition from the military to the civilian employment sector because your skills in leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving are skills and values in demand by civilian employers.

The Army’s fleet of marine vessels and the people who keep them going are a crucial part of the transportation logistics team as a Military Occupational Specialty Watercraft Operator.

Watercraft Operator (88K)

  • Enlisted
  • Officer
  • Active Duty
  • Army Reserve
  • National Guard
  • Entry Level


Watercraft operators are primarily responsible for navigation, cargo operations and supervising other Soldiers on Army watercraft. They are part of a piloting team using electronic positioning systems, handheld navigation tools and traditional watch standing procedures aboard many of the Army’s watercraft.

Job Duties

  • Dock and undock vessels
  • Send and receive messages with radios, beacons and signal flags
  • Operate and maintain lifeboats and vessel firefighting equipment
  • Secure all type of cargo using shipboard machinery such as capstans, winches, hoists and davits


Those who want to serve must first take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a series of tests that helps you better understand your strengths and identify which Army jobs are best for you.


Job training for a watercraft operator requires 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and six weeks of Advanced Individual Training with on-the-job instructions. Part of this time is spent in the classroom and part in the field.

Some of the skills you’ll learn are:

  • Boat handling techniques
  • Standing-watch procedures
  • Use of communications, electronics and navigational systems
  • Ship structure
  • Log and message-handling procedures
  • Navigational mathematics

Helpful Skills

  • Interest in the ocean, sailing and navigation
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Basic understanding of maps and trip planning
  • Understanding of mathematical formulas

Required ASVAB Score(s)

Mechanical Maintenance (MM): 99

Learn more about the ASVAB and see what jobs you could qualify for.


Total compensation includes housing, medical, food, special pay, and vacation time. Learn more about total compensation.

Earn Cash For In Demand Jobs

You could earn up to $40,000 in cash bonuses just for enlisting under certain Military Occupational Specialties. Visit Jobs in Demand to see if this job qualifies for an enlistment bonus.

Education Benefits

In the Army, qualified students can earn full-tuition, merit-based scholarships, allowances for books and fees, plus an annual stipend for living expenses. Learn more about education benefits.

Future Civilian Careers

The skills you learn will help prepare you for a career in shipping, cruise ship, tugboat or ferry operation. You’ll be able to consider a future as a pilot, harbormaster or marine resource enforcement officer.


Those interested in this job may be eligible for civilian employment, after the Army, by enrolling in the Army PaYS program. The PaYS program is a recruitment option that guarantees a job interview with military friendly employers that are looking for experienced and trained Veterans to join their organization. Find out more about the Army PaYS Program at

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  • Nationwide Truck Brokers, Inc.
  • J. B. Hunt Transportation, Inc.
  • Total Quality Logistics, LLC
  • TMC Transportation, Inc.