Transportation and Material-Handling Occupations

Each job description is preceded by an indication of which branches of the service the job is available in, as not all branches of the service offer the same careers. For additional information beyond what we offer here, you can also visit: careersinthemilitary.com and todaysmilitary.com/careers.

Air Crew Members

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

The military uses aircraft of all types and sizes to conduct combat and intelligence missions, rescue personnel, transport troops and equipment, and perform long-range bombing missions. Air crew members operate equipment on board aircraft during operations. They normally specialize by type of aircraft, such as bomber, intelligence, transport, or search and rescue.

What They Do

Air crew members in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Operate aircraft communication and radar equipment
  • Operate and maintain aircraft defensive gunnery systems
  • Operate helicopter hoists to lift equipment and personnel from land and sea
  • Operate and maintain aircraft in-flight refueling systems

Where They Work

Air crew members work inside all sizes and types of aircraft based on land or aboard ships. They fly in all types of weather and in both hot and cold climates.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

There are no direct civilian equivalents to military air crew members. However, some of the skills gained in the military could be useful in civilian government and private agencies that provide emergency medical services. Also, weight and load computation skills are useful for civilian air transport operations.

Physical Requirements

Air crew members must be in excellent physical condition and pass a special physical exam in order to qualify for flight duty. They must be mentally sound and have normal hearing.

Aircraft Launch and Recovery Specialists

Navy
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

The military operates thousands of aircraft that take off and land on aircraft carriers all over the world. The successful launch and recovery of aircraft is important to the completion of air missions and the safety of flight crews. Aircraft launch and recovery specialists operate and maintain catapults, arresting gear, and other equipment used in aircraft carrier takeoff and landing operations.

What They Do

Aircraft launch and recovery specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Operate consoles to control launch and recovery equipment, including catapults and arresting gear
  • Operate elevators to transfer aircraft between flight and storage decks
  • Install and maintain visual landing aids
  • Test and adjust launch and recovery equipment using electric and mechanical test equipment and hand tools
  • Install airfield crash barriers and barricades
  • Direct aircraft launch and recovery operations using hand or light signals
  • Maintain logs of airplane launches, recoveries, and equipment maintenance

Where They Work

Aircraft launch and recovery specialists work outdoors aboard ships while operating and maintaining launch and recovery equipment or holding visual landing aids for incoming aircraft. They are exposed to noise and fumes from jet and helicopter engines.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

There are no direct opportunities in civilian life for military aircraft launch and recovery specialists. However, many of the skills learned are relevant to jobs performed by ground crews at civilian airports.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required to work with color-coded parts and the wiring of launch and recovery equipment.

Cargo Specialists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Coast Guard

The military delivers supplies, weapons, equipment, and mail to United States forces in many parts of the world. Military cargo travels by ship, truck, or airplane. It must be handled carefully to ensure safe arrival at the correct destination. Cargo specialists load and unload military supplies and material using equipment such as forklifts and cranes. They also plan and organize loading schedules.

What They Do

Cargo specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Load supplies into trucks, transport planes, and railroad cars using forklifts
  • Load equipment such as jeeps, trucks, and weapons aboard ships, using dockyard cranes
  • Pack and crate boxes of supplies for shipping
  • Inspect cargo for damage
  • Plan and inspect loads for balance and safety
  • Check cargo against invoices to make sure the amount and destination of material are correct

Where They Work

Cargo specialists work outdoors on loading docks and indoors in warehouses.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian cargo specialists work for trucking firms, air cargo companies, and shipping lines. They perform duties similar to those of military cargo specialists. Depending on specialty, they may also be called industrial truck operators, stevedores, longshoremen, material handlers, or cargo checkers.

Physical Requirements

Cargo specialists must lift and carry heavy cargo.

Flight Engineers

Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

The military operates thousands of airplanes and helicopters. Pilots and air crew members rely upon trained personnel to keep aircraft ready to fly. Flight engineers inspect airplanes and helicopters before, during, and after flights to ensure safe and efficient operations. They also serve as crew members aboard military aircraft.

What They Do

Flight engineers in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Inspect aircraft before and after flights, following pre- and postflight checklists
  • Plan and monitor the loading of passengers, cargo, and fuel
  • Assist pilots in engine start-up and shut-down
  • Compute aircraft load weights and fuel distribution
  • Compute fuel consumption using airspeed data, charts, and calculators
  • Monitor engine instruments and adjust engine controls following pilot orders
  • Check fuel, pressure, electrical, and other aircraft systems during flight
  • Inform pilot of aircraft performance problems and recommend corrective action

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian flight engineers work for passenger and cargo airline companies. They perform the same duties as in the military.

Physical Requirements

Flight engineers, like pilots and navigators, have to be mentally alert and physically sound to perform their job. They must be in top physical shape and pass a special physical exam to qualify for flight duty.

Petroleum Supply Specialists

Army
Navy
Air Force
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

Ships, airplanes, trucks, tanks, and other military vehicles require large amounts of fuel and lubricants. These and other petroleum products require special storage and handling. Petroleum supply specialists store and ship petroleum products, such as oil, fuel, compressed gas, and lubricants.

What They Do

Petroleum supply specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Connect hoses and valves and operate pumps to load petroleum products into tanker trucks, airplanes, ships, and railroad cars
  • Test oils and fuels for pollutants
  • Repair pipeline systems, hoses, valves, and pumps
  • Check the volume and temperature of petroleum and gases in tankers, barges, and storage tanks
  • Prepare storage and shipping records
  • Store and move packaged petroleum products using forklifts

Where They Work

Petroleum supply specialists work outdoors in all types of weather while filling storage tanks and refueling airplanes, ships, and tankers.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian petroleum supply specialists work for oil refineries, pipeline companies, and tanker truck and ship lines. They may also refuel airplanes at large airports. They perform many of the same duties as military petroleum supply specialists.

Physical Requirements

Petroleum supply specialists may have to perform moderate to heavy lifting.

Quartermasters and Boat Operators

Army
Navy
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

The military operates many small boats for amphibious troop landings, harbor patrols, and transportation over short distances. Quartermasters and boat operators navigate and pilot many types of small watercraft, including tugboats, PT boats, gunboats, and barges.

What They Do

Quartermasters and boat operators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Direct the course and speed of boats
  • Consult maps, charts, weather reports, and navigation equipment
  • Pilot tugboats when towing and docking barges and large ships
  • Operate amphibious craft during troop landings
  • Maintain boats and deck equipment
  • Operate ship-to-shore radios
  • Keep ship logs

Where They Work

Quartermasters and boat operators work aboard all types of boats and in all types of weather conditions. When not piloting boats, they may work on or below deck repairing boats and equipment or overseeing cargo storage. When ashore, they may work in offices that make nautical maps or in harbor management offices. Some boats are operated in combat situations.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian quartermasters and boat operators may work for shipping and cruise lines, piloting tugboats, ferries, and other small vessels. They perform duties similar to those of military quartermasters and boat operators. Depending upon specialty, they may also be called tugboat captains, motorboat operators, navigators, or pilots.

Physical Requirements

Quartermasters and boat operators may have to stand for several hours at a time. They must be able to speak clearly. Some specialties require normal depth perception and hearing.

Seamen

Army
Navy
Air Force
Coast Guard

All ships must have teams of individuals with “jack-of-all-trades” skills who make things run smoothly above deck. Seamen perform many duties to help operate and maintain military ships, boats, and submarines.

What They Do

Seamen in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Operate hoists, cranes, and winches to load cargo or set gangplanks
  • Operate and maintain on-deck equipment and ship rigging
  • Supervise firefighting and damage-control exercises
  • Handle lines to secure vessels to wharves or other ships
  • Stand watch for security, navigation, or communications
  • Supervise crews painting and maintaining decks and sides of ships

Physical Requirements

Seamen may have to climb ships’ rigging and perform work at heights. Their work often involves moderate to heavy lifting.

Where They Work

Seamen and deckhands work aboard all types of ships and submarines. On ships, they often work outdoors on deck while servicing shipboard equipment.

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian seamen work primarily for shipping companies, sometimes called the Merchant Marine. They also work for cruise ship lines. They perform many duties similar to those of military seamen. They are called able seamen, deckhands, or boatswains.

Vehicle Drivers

Army
Navy
Marine Corps
Coast Guard

The military uses numerous vehicles to transport its troops, equipment, and supplies. Together, the services own and operate about 50,000 heavy trucks and buses. Vehicle drivers operate all types of heavy military vehicles. They drive fuel or water tank trucks, semi-tractor trailers, heavy troop transports, and passenger buses.

What They Do

Vehicle drivers in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Read travel instructions to determine travel routes, arrival dates, and types of cargo
  • Make sure vehicles are loaded properly
  • Check oil, fuel and other fluid levels, and tire pressure
  • Drive vehicles over all types of roads, traveling alone or in convoys
  • Keep records of mileage driven and fuel and oil used
  • Wash vehicles and perform routine maintenance and repairs

Opportunities in Civilian Life

Civilian vehicle drivers work for trucking companies, moving companies, bus companies, and businesses with their own delivery fleets. They perform duties similar to those of military vehicle drivers. They may specialize as tractor-trailer truck drivers, tank truck drivers, heavy truck drivers, or bus drivers.

Physical Requirements

Normal color vision is required to read road maps.