Army Watercraft Operator (MOS 88K)

Army Watercraft Operator (MOS 88K): Career Details

Army Watercraft Operator (MOS 88K) are responsible for cargo operations, communication and supervising soldiers on Army watercraft.

Watercraft Operators are part of the pilot team that assists with navigation.

They maintain communication, ensure shipments are secure and complete operational procedures.

Related ArticleFull List of Army MOS’s

Qualifications and Training

Those who wish to enter into this MOS must first take the ASVAB and receive a minimum score of 99 on the Mechanical Maintenance (MM) portion.

After all entry testing and meeting all physical/medical requirements, recruits will attend Basic Combat Training for 10 weeks.

Basic Combat Training is followed by Advanced Individual Training for 6 weeks.

Advanced Individual Training is a combination of classroom and field training with focus on learning techniques, procedures and communications related to Army watercraft.

Soldiers are trained on basic seaman ship and vessel operations.

Skills that are helpful in this MOS:

  • Team oriented
  • Interest in a job involving the ocean, sailing and navigation
  • Mathematical formula understanding
  • Basic grasp of maps and trip planning

 Related Article: Army Utilities Equipment Repairer (MOS 91C): Career Details

What are the Job Duties of a Watercraft Operator?

Army Watercraft Operator
Army Watercraft Operator unties a boat from the causeway. Image: flickr

The Army has a large fleet of watercraft.

Watercraft Operators have the task of operating and maintaining various aspects of the watercraft.


Soldiers in this MOS are trained on how to send and receive messages.

This can be with radios, beacons and signal flags.

They must be familiar with all communications systems available on the boat.

This includes how to properly communicate with other watercraft or with ports.

Soldiers must know customs and courtesy.

Part of the communications duties includes creating a log and performing message-handling procedures.

Operators will identify, interpret and send single letter international code signals.

They disseminate information related to weather. 

Emergency Procedures

Operators must know how to react in an emergency situation and be able to give direction.

They are trained to operate and maintain lifeboats.

Soldiers know emergency water survival and can assist others.

They understand basic lifesaving skills and perform rescue procedures.

In the event of a fire, Watercraft Operators can use firefighting equipment to help extinguish the fire.

Operators will perform damage inspection and control.

Any safety equipment such as life vests will be maintained by the Watercraft Operator.

Related Article: Army Allied Trade Specialist (MOS 91E): Career Details


Soldiers must perform maintenance duties related to the watercraft.

They will use different tools to preserve watercraft surfaces and mechanical equipment.

Soldiers maintain ship compartments as well.

This may include cleaning surfaces and removing rust.

Operators inspect and perform maintenance on shipboard equipment.

Operators will perform any functions needed to prepare the watercraft for sea.

Standard Operating

Watercraft Operators assist with docking/un-docking vessels and anchoring.

Often the watercraft will have cargo aboard and the operator must ensure that it is secure.

The operator will operate capstans, winches, hoists, davits and other equipment to ensure cargo is secure.

Watercraft Operators must be familiar with boat handling techniques and ship structure.

The will be required to perform navigational mathematics and use navigational aids.

Soldiers use both electronic and navigational systems.

Navigation includes using sonar and radar.

Watercraft operators have security duties.

They are knowledgeable in the duties of a Helmsman and stand helm watches.

Operators are required to perform towing and lookout watches.

Watercraft Operators perform general watercraft security duties.

Higher ranking watercraft operators will be in charge of:

  • Vessel bill and crew list
  • Storage and distribution of supplies
  • Vessel mess functions (money, headcount, cook sheet, food utilization)
  • Staff supervision
  • Policy
  • Subject matter experts

The Army video below provides more information on Watercraft Operator job functions.

What Does a Watercraft Operator Get Paid?

Watercraft Operators will be paid based on rank and time of service.

For those who enter into the Army with no prior Military experience, you can expect to make around $20,000 a year in base pay.

The Army provides recruiting bonuses for shipping to training in a certain time frame and special pay opportunities that add to your pay.

They also provide benefits that add to the base pay table below.

InsigniaPay GradeRankAbbreviationMinimum Monthly Pay
E-1 +4 monthsPrivatePVT$1,917.60
E-2Private Second ClassPV2$2,149.20
army e 3 insignia - pfcE-3Private First ClassPFC$2,259.90
army e 4 insignia - specialistE-4SpecialistSPC$2,503.50
army e 4 insignia - corporalE-4CorporalCPL$2,503.50
e-6E-6Staff SergeantSSG$2,980.50
E-7Sergeant First Class SFC$3,445.80
army master sergeant iconE-8Master SergeantMSG$4,957.20
E-8First Sergeant 1SG$4,957.20
E-9Sergeant MajorSGM$6,055.50
E-9Command Sergeant MajorCSM$6,055.50
e 9 sergeant major of the army insigniaE-9Sergeant Major of the ArmySMA$6,055.50


One of the benefits that the Army provides is tuition assistance.

Through the tuition assistance opportunities most individuals can gain a higher education while in the Army for little to nothing out of pocket.

Another benefit is having housing and food paid for the individuals who live on base.

Other benefits include:

  • Military Clothing Allowance
  • Medical and Dental
  • Paid sick time
  • 30 days paid vacation
  • Low-cost life insurance

Job Reviews

Soldiers who have left reviews of this position discuss the amount of travel and responsibility involved.

Operators in this MOS are ensuring assets are secure over waters and not only training Army personnel on safety, but foreign Military as well.

Most reviews were positive with the pros being noted as travel, benefits and working in a culturally diverse environment.

Negative reviews discussed being away from family for long periods of time and long hours.

The review below shows job functions from a Watercraft Operator as well as the importance of the position.

Image: Indeed

The review below shows examples of travel opportunities in this position.

Army MOS 88K
Image: Indeed

Related Article: Army Cargo Specialist (MOS 88H): Career Details

Civilian Career Opportunities

This position allows soldiers to gain experience in marine operations.

Soldiers will understand how to load watercraft, keep them secure, proper communication and have an understanding of operational procedures.

Working in this position allows soldiers to gain experience related to cruise ship, tugboat or ferry operation.

They can also find civilian work as stevedore, longshoreman or harbormaster or work on a boat as a mate or captain.

Through the Army’s COOL program, soldiers have a chance at gaining credentials that can assist with promotion points, be GI Bill or Army funded and assist with civilian career opportunities.

Credential opportunities related to this position are available from the United States Coast Guard, Federal Communications Commission and the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management (IHMM).


Watercraft Operator Army
Army Watercraft Operator removing latches that were used to secure cargo. Image: wikimedia

Army Watercraft Operator (MOS 88K) are responsible for assisting with navigation, cargo operations, security and communication on Army watercraft.

They are required to have skills in a variety of areas, assist in emergency procedures and protect assets.

This is an entry-level position that requires ASVAB testing, Basic Training and 6 weeks of Advanced Individual Training.

Soldiers can expect to be paid based on rank and service, with the amount fluctuating during training.

Most Watercraft Operators who have left reviews recommend the position and the Army.

Civilian career opportunities related to this position include jobs with tug boats, vessels or other civilian watercraft.

Related Article: Army Small Arms/Artillery Repairer (MOS 91F): Career Details


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Army MOS 88K Career Details


Rob V.
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