Army 88K MOS: Watercraft Operator

In today’s post, I’d like to educate you about the Army 88k MOS: the Watercraft Operator. 

I don’t know about you, but when I think about boats, ships, and vessels in the military, I think about the Navy or Coast Guard. What most people don’t realize is that the Army has its own fleet of vessels. Soldiers working on these vessels often serve in the Army 88K MOS, which is known as a watercraft operator.

If you love the idea of working on vessels, but don’t have the desire to serve in the Navy, Coast Guard, or Marines, this might just be the best option for you.

88k MOS Duties & Responsibilities

Here are a few of the basic duties and responsibilities of the 88K MOS:

The watercraft operator leads, operates, and performs seamanship duties on Army watercraft. The Watercraft Operator must be competent in the use of electronic navigation equipment (e.g., sonar and radar), navigational aids, radios, and single-letter international code flags; proficient at docking/undocking vessels and loading/unloading vessels. Watercraft Operators receive extensive training in damage control, firefighting, lifesaving, and rescue procedures. MOS 88K NCOs are trained for independent watercraft operations. ~

In simple terms, this is what they do on a daily basis:

  • Docking and undocking vessels
  • Send and receive messages by flag, radio, or beacon
  • Maintain lifeboats and firefighting equipment
  • Anchoring
  • Prepare vessels for sea
  • General watercraft security
  • Maintain watercraft surfaces and compartment
  • Inspect emergency and service equipment
  • Secure cargo on vessel

army 88k mos

Requirements for 88K MOS

In order to qualify for this MOS, you must meet the following criteria:

To be eligible for this role, you’ll need a score of at least 99 on the mechanical maintenance (MM) section of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. This position doesn’t require a Department of Defense security clearance, but the normal color vision is required. You’ll need to have uncorrected vision of 20/200 in each eye that corrects with lenses or eyeglasses to 20/20 in one eye and 20/40 in the other. ~ The Balances

In layman’s terms:

  • Both men and women are eligible
  • Normal color vision required
  • No Security Clearance required
  • Physical profile of 211222
  • Score a 99 in area MM on the ASVAB
  • Heavy lifting requirement

AIT for the 88K MOS

The AIT for the 88K MOS is at Fort Eustis, Virginia. The course is six weeks long. Here is a brief overview of what you will learn in AIT:

  • Seamanship and vessel operations
  • Shipboard customs and courtesies
  • Emergency water survival
  • Shipboard firefighting
  • Damage inspection and control
  • Emergency procedures
  • Secure cargo
  • Operate deck machinery
  • Stand lookout watches
  • Perform duties of Helmsman
  • Identify and send international code signals
  • Proper maintenance and services of vessel equipment

Career Opportunities

This is a great MOS career if you want to stay in the enlisted ranks. It also gives you the opportunity to become a commissioned officer or Warrant Officer, after you get some experience. If you choose to leave the Army at any point, you would be qualified to work at a port, loading dock, on a vessel, as an instructor, or a variety of other careers. You could also work on a cruise ship, a ferry, barge, or tugboat.

As you progress through the ranks, there are also opportunities to serve as a recruiter, Career Counselor, or Drill Sergeant.

boats in the army

Final Thoughts

In summary, the 88K MOS is a great MOS for anyone who enjoys the open water and wants to serve in the Army. It offers opportunity for travel by sea, upward mobility, and plenty of options after you leave the military.

On a side note, I would love to hear from you. If you’ve spent any time in the Army 88K MOS, I would love to hear about your experience. Please share your story about what unit you were in, what training was like, what you did for day-to-day activities, and any tips you might have for someone serving in this MOS. Just leave a comment below to do so. I look forward to hearing from you.

Other posts you may enjoy:
  1. Army ASI 4W: Underwater Special Operations
  2. Army 92W MOS: Water Treatment Specialist
  3. Napoleonic Wars: 11 Cool Facts
  4. Top 18 Professional Athletes Who Served in the Military

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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10 thoughts on “Army 88K MOS: Watercraft Operator”

  1. I appreciate the information you’ve shared, but I’m still left with a few questions. What were the deployments like and in garrison, how often did you go out on the water? I’m currently in the infantry and we have of rotations and ftx and we also go to the field a lot but what about this mos? Essentially, I’m asking how much time would I spend away from my wife back in garrison. I understand that the navy goes out to see like every other 6 mo the and the cost guard go out a lot too but for shorter months but what’s it’s like being a water craft operator for the US Army?

    1. When I was in the army had two ships and I was told it had more boats than the navy most were amphibian landing craft like lsts or lcus and some larks they had tires to drive on land I had a couple buddies who were assigned to hovercraft at ft.lee this was in 1987

  2. I have a good friend who had this MOS – in Hawaii no less! Yeah, she was an enlisted soldier for the duration of her career. But she got to live in Hawaii and operate a boat, and she loved doing so. Can you imagine how cool that would be? Not a bad option for civilian life, either.

  3. Like you, I also thought that the Navy and Coast Guard handled all, and everything to do with watercraft. I never thought the Army had anything to do with the water, so this MOS is new to me.

    It does make sense though. Having the proper tools, the Army surely is in a position where they need to cross waters at times, and they cannot always call in the Navy.

    I think it is great that the Army offers this MOS, so for all of you that want to serve the U.S. in with a watercraft MOS, but are not interested in the Navy, this sounds like the perfect job for you to apply for.

    Out of curiosity Chuck, what, and how many watercraft does the Army have?

      1. Yes, that would be a great research item for one of your blog posts. I did a little searching, and I just cannot find any information. It would take some deep digging to be able to find that information. I wonder if they have any submarines, or any larger vessels, or if it is all smaller boats. Where would a person find that information? Do you know?

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