July 12th 2017

Aaron Kirk, a member of the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group, has been profiled by Waterways Journal Weekly.

The publication is known as “The Riverman’s Bible” because of its wide distribution among inland tug and barge operators and the fact that it has been published continuously since 1887.

Kirk enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a teenager and then went to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), where he now sails as first mate aboard the largest towboat in the country, the MV MISSISSIPPI.

He was interviewed about opportunities for military veterans in the maritime industry—in particular, on the inland rivers–for the series “Red, White, Blue and Brown: Veterans Work the River.”

Kirk, a New Hampshire native, decided to join the Navy at age 19.

He became a boatswain mate, participating in operations that included navigation, cargo, flight, search and seizure.

He moved to Columbus, Miss., when he married, and was quickly hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I was hired first by the Corps as a seasonal deckhand and within a year-and-a-half, I became a licensed merchant mariner,” he says.

He was promoted to first mate shortly thereafter.

Kirk says the military taught him to plan ahead and to understand the importance of teamwork.

The MV MISSISSIPPI, the largest diesel towboat on the river, is operated by USACE Memphis District.

Ninety percent of the time it is moving barges, equipment and supplies in support of mat sinking operations.

It also serves as an inspection boat for the Mississippi River Commission during a high- and low-water inspection trip each year.

Commissioners hold meetings at river towns in the boat’s hearing room, which can seat 115 people. Its dining room has a capacity of 85 people. The boat has 22 staterooms and can handle 150 passengers.

“For me, what the Corps team does by keeping the river open for traffic is amazing, because we’re literally battling Mother Nature every day,” Kirk says.

“What the commercial vessel guys are doing is equally amazing; most people don’t realize the work that it takes to build a tow or navigate a vessel.”