The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Galveston District, plays a key role in America's economy by keeping waterways open for navigation and commerce.
The Galveston District is directly responsible for monitoring more than 1,000 miles of channel along the Texas Gulf Coast.
This navigation mission sometimes requires getting help from some friends in the USACE Wilmington District (SAW).
A 10-person crew of USACE civilians brought the Multipurpose Vessel (MPV) Brandy Station to Galveston this week.
The MPV Brandy Station will work on missions previously completed by the MPV Snell. The Snell worked in the Galveston District from 2017 to 2023.The Brandy Station made it from Wilmington, N.C. to Galveston in seven days. Talon Smith is the captain of the ship, and the crew works 16 days on, then takes 12 days off.
The new MPV has similar mission capabilities as the Snell, to include marine construction, navigation hazard removal, and clamshell and hydraulic dredging for small critical shoals in federal channels and adjacent non-federal channels. The crew performs clamshell dredging by attaching a bucket to the onboard crane. Hydraulic dredging uses pumps and pipes to move dredge material.
“We have some dredging work we’re going to be doing,” said Joen Petersen, SAW Floating Plant Chief, aboard the Brandy Station, July 24, 2023.
The MPV is also outfitted with pumps for small dredge jobs where material can be pumped 1,500 to 2,000 feet.
Additionally, the Brandy Station can support maintenance and storm relief for U.S. facilities and territories and maritime transport.
“The vessel itself has a worldwide capability; about a 10,000-mile range,” Petersen said.“We carry just under 90,000 gallons of fuel. We have the capability to make our own water if we need to,” Petersen said. “The deck itself will carry 350 tons. The crane on board right now is a 135-ton crane and it has about a 200-foot reach. It replaced the old crane on here which had a 35-ton capability with an 80-foot maximum reach.
”To put it in perspective, the Snell would fit on the deck of the Brandy Station, Petersen said.Upcoming projects for the Brandy Station and its’ crew include mooring maintenance and construction at the Brazos and Colorado River Locks.
“We’ll go down there and put the new buoys in,” Petersen said. “We’ll drive the subsurface anchors down to put all those in.”The Brandy Station can also repair lock walls damaged by barge traffic, build docks and drive sheet piles. Sheet piles are steel sheets with interlocking edges which can be used to recreate retaining walls.
The Brandy Station can also install navigation buoys, Petersen said.Using the crane to lift and drop a large steel beam like a hammer, the crew pounds anchors 40 feet down into the ocean or river floor, with two-and-a-half-inch chain attached to the anchor. Then the crew pulls on the chain to make sure the anchor stays put. After the pull test, mooring buoys are attached which are then used by tugs and barges.
The Brandy Station can pound spuds (steel cylinder anchors) which enables the vessel to do construction work, Petersen said.
The ship also has a front landing ramp, so the crane can be offloaded with relative ease for work from land, Petersen said.
The Brandy Station can also help with disaster relief, Petersen said. The vessel was used to transport telephone poles to Puerto Rico in 2017 for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.
Onboard desalination equipment can produce 2,000 gallons or 16,000 bottles of water a day.
The deck can be configured for use as a container ship, which can carry up to 30 shipping containers.
Colonel Brad Morgan assumed command as the 57th District Commander in the history of the Wilmington Engineer District in July 2023. He is from Union City, TN, and received his commission as an Engineer Officer from the United States Military Academy in 2000. He is a graduate of the Engineer Officer Basic and Captain’s Career Courses, Airborne School, Air Assault School, Pathfinder School, Sapper School, and the College of Naval Command and War College and was previously assigned to U.S. Southern Command, where he served as the Chief of Engineer Plans and Operations within the Engineer Division of the J4 Directorate.
His previous non-command assignments include service as a Sapper Platoon Leader, Assault & Obstacle Platoon Leader, Combat Engineer Company XO, and Battalion Construction Officer in the 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st CAV, deploying to Baghdad, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom II; Battalion Military Transition Team Leader, 1st ID, deployed to Taji, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; MSE G5, Chief of Plans, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); Battalion Operations Officer, 326 Engineer Battalion, deploying to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn; Deputy Commander, Nashville District, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); and as the Deputy Commander, Baltimore District, USACE, which included a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
His command assignments include: 18 months as Commander, 511th Sapper Company, 326 Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he deployed to Iraq in 2009, conducting route clearance operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; and 25 months as Commander, 19th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, where he deployed to the U.S.-Mexico Border in support of the initial Operation Border Support in the fall of 2018.
COL Morgan is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Tennessee and holds a Master of Engineering degree from Vanderbilt University, a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College, and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with 3 OLC, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with 1 OLC, the Meritorious Service Medal with 4 OLC, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with 2 OLC, the OIF and OEF Campaign Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals, the Armed Forces Service Medal, and the NATO Medal. He has also earned the Parachutist Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Pathfinder Badge, the Combat Action Badge, and the Sapper Tab.