Civilian maritime pros support the U.S. Navy at MSC
In this unique agency, civilians provide logistical support to the U.S. Navy. Travel and service ensure a rewarding experience for diverse engineers and techies
Military Sealift Command (MSC) is a U.S. Navy operation that uses approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships to replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies for deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.
MSC has two distinct operations that are separate hiring entities: ashore and afloat.
“We give logistical support to the U.S. Navy, providing whatever they need, whether it’s ammunition, fuel, mail or food,” says Michael Latham, MSC recruitment coordinator. “We’re like the Navy’s Walmart. Whatever they need to keep them going, we’re going to get it to them, no matter where they are or what time zone they’re in.”
Other duties include towing, rescue, salvage and diving operations; medical and humanitarian support via hospital ships; maintenance and repair services to submarines; and cable laying and repair.
“Unmatched opportunities” for civilian service and travel
Latham hopes to expose as many people as possible to the benefits of working in the maritime industry. “There are many opportunities for individuals who don’t want to be in the military, but who like to travel and want to serve the country,” Latham says.
“Our employees can join MSC right out of college, and sail around the world experiencing many different cultures while building their engineering and IT skills. It’s an opportunity unmatched in the private sector.”
According to Latham, both the afloat and ashore sides of MSC have opportunities for engineers and IT professionals. The afloat side in particular has a need for mechanical engineers. “We’re looking for deck engineers, radio electronics technicians, machinists, and people with communications knowledge,” Latham says. “Although we target candidates who have degrees, a degree is not as important as the skill sets needed to operate and maintain the equipment on board our ships.”
As shown on the career opportunities section of www.sealiftcommand.com, positions are available for current mariners, separating military veterans, maritime school graduates, and entry-level and skilled laborers. Degreed or not, entry-level candidates have to work their way from the ground up to become licensed engineers.
Candidates need certain credentials even before they are eligible to apply for positions. “In addition to a passport, candidates need a transportation worker identification credential (TWIC),” Latham explains. A TWIC is a biometric credential that ensures only vetted workers gain unescorted access to secure areas of a Maritime Transportation Security Act-regulated port or vessel. Potential candidates also need a merchant mariner credential.
Latham anticipates that hiring levels will remain steady despite the current federal sequester. “Our mission is to keep the Navy afloat. We have to stay maintained, manned, trained and equipped.”
MSC has a robust recruiting schedule, attending career fairs across the United States, Latham says. “We particularly like to go to the coastal areas where we’re likely to find candidates who meet MSC requirements,” Latham explains. In addition to recruiting in locations in the continental U.S., MSC also goes to Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico. “We try to reach into various different demographic groups. We realize many people have not heard of MSC, so we try to give them a good idea of what we do so they can decide whether this is a job that will appeal to them.”
MSC has also participated in Women on the Water conferences. “These annual conferences are geared toward women who are interested in the maritime industry,” Latham says. “Topics include the benefits of sailing and the issues surrounding being on a ship for long periods of time.”
Overall, diversity is strong at MSC. Of the nearly 6,000 civilian mariners, about 1,600 are Pacific Islanders, 1,600 are African Americans, 260 are Hispanic, and 120 are Hawaiian. Oversight of diversity matters is handled through the command’s Equal Employment Opportunity office. “EEO is doing a barrier analysis to figure out if anything here excludes hiring in any demographic,” Latham notes. “Everyone is helping to pull data so that we can remove those barriers, if there are any, and make sure opportunities are available to everyone, internally and externally.”