RED SEA --
Marines embark on U.S. naval vessels all over the world, and while doing so, each unit has to pay taxes. Ship taxes are not the taxes you pay with money, but are paid by personnel support. Ship taxes support the Marines and Sailors aboard the vessel, and they are able to accomplish more requirements that are associated with the addition of several hundred more personnel. Each unit gets taxed based on the number of personnel aboard. This ensures every unit is providing support for the ship equally.
Marines are assigned to ship tax for 30 days. These taxes can vary greatly, from working in electrical to hazardous materials. There are 10 different details Marines can be assigned to. Units are encouraged to utilize volunteers for details. Marines are able to learn more about how the crew runs the ship. Many of these jobs require various certifications that the Marines need to earn, which encourages Marines and Sailors to maintain close working relationships.
“I enjoy working in the hazmat department because it gives me a sense of purpose for each day,” explains Cpl. Samuel Johnson, an anti-tank missleman who is on ship tax with the hazmat department. “I requested to be left in the department for the rest of deployment. We will see if I get to stay.”
While on these duties the Marines do not report to their regular sections for work but to their new sections. There is a Marine liaison that covers all taxed sections and represents the Marines and their Navy counterparts. They ensure Marines are matched to a ship tax that fits their abilities. Marines cutting hair on ship are trained during barber shop ship tax. Barber shop taxes have been returned to their platoons, which are now referred to as ‘platoon barber.’ This allows the Marine to continue training with the unit and practice a trade they can take anywhere.
“Currently there are 75 Marines on ship tax from all of the units aboard,” said Company Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Earle. “It takes away Marines from training, but in the end it helps facilitate services to the Marines aboard. They also learn skill sets that they might not have had before.”
Earle is the ship commandant for the Marines aboard the ship. Part of his duties are to be in charge of the ship taxes. The most common ship tax is the mess deck. Marines are asked to help serve food, clean trays and galley, and most importantly, ensure there is always coffee. There are different types of mess deck taxes. Marines can be asked to work in the main line, which the majority of the ship eats from. They could also work in the chief’s mess and the wardroom, which services senior enlisted and officers. Marines also cover down on the midnight rations which allows shift workers the ability to receive chow during the night. There are also special duties for staff non-commissioned officers (SNCO) as ship tax. A SNCO gets pulled from one unit to stand master of arms on the mess decks. This job is to ensure the mess lines run smoothly and ensures overall cleanliness of the facility.
“You have Sailors taking care of Sailors but it gives the Marines - guys on ship tax - the ability to take care of their own Marines - providing them the best service you can,” explains Staff Sgt Kevin Bland the master of arms mess SNCO. “I primarily work with the Marines in the galley but I am also in charge of the Marines that work in hazmat, laundry and all the Marines on ship tax,” explains Staff Sgt Kevin Bland. “My job is to hold them accountable for being there on time and making sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.”
Another type of ship tax the Marines have is combat cargo. These Marines are given up to the ship for the entirety of the pre-deployment training program and deployment. Marines who are taxed to combat cargo, in some cases, receive additional pay depending on duties such as flight deck pay for being on the flight deck during operational times.
“There are 30 combat cargo Marines,” said Staff Sgt Jacob Morlitz combat cargo assistant with the USS New York. “They are broken down into 2 squads of 3 teams. Each squad has their own specific roles ranging from flight deck operations to well deck operations. They are considered ships platoon, so while they are attached to combat cargo they fall under the combat cargo department aboard the ships.”
Combat cargo Marines support various operational needs for the landing force. They also support anything the ship needs support with such as a resupply at sea or vertical resupply, and they routinely make sure cargo is secured for seas. The BLT provides Marines from various units.Those Marines stay with the combat cargo section for the remainder of deployment.
The combat cargo Marines are important because, without them, we only have 3 people to support such a large mission,” explains Morlitz. “With the additional Marines we are able to complete on loads and off loads, manifests and other duties.”
Combat cargo Marines are taught how to operate shipboard forklifts and how to conduct minor electrical repairs. The Marines work with the well deck operations during onload and offloading of cargo as well as the flight deck with the transferring of personnel and cargo from one aircraft to another. One thing many Marines do not know about combat cargo is they are in charge of the indoor simulator marksmanship trainer aboard the ship. Marines train their fellow Marines and Sailors how to use this so units can conduct weapons familiarization while aboard the ship. All of the ship taxes are either combat cargo or other duties, which support the Marines and Sailors aboard the ship to keep things running smoothly.
“I think when you are on (ship) tax that (experience) humbles you,” explains Bland. “It makes you appreciate what the Marines and Sailors do.”
Marines normally task out 60 to 90 Marines whom rotate every 30 days, which is dependent on the ship size. Some Marines could do a ship tax more than one 30-day rotation due to numbers within their sections. Most Marines will experience some form of ship tax while on deployment. Ship tax Marines learn how to support the ship through their hard work and dedication.