By Susan Lester, Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering Public Affairs
Students and staff from the 255th Civil Engineer Corps Officers School (CECOS) Basic Course participated in a five-day, scenario-driven, realistic Field Training Exercise (FTX) at Point Mugu, Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, Calif. for the first time. Historically, the class FTX has been conducted at Fort Hunter Liggett where scenarios leverage the same Army training ranges and navigation courses used by Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) for field training. The FTX is the culminating practical event during the two-week Expeditionary Phase in a 17-week course designed to give newly-selected Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) Officers an in-depth look at what it takes to become leaders in a contingency environment. The change in location, driven by budgetary reductions, forced CECOS staff to redesign each scenario and seek creative training alternatives. Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Jordan, CECOS Seabee Readiness Division Director, said, “The CECOS staff was able to execute all of the required learning objectives for Basic Class 255 at Point Mugu, while saving the Navy $25K in travel and support costs. While the initial field training was successfully executed, we will continue to make every effort to improve our tactical realism in order to enhance each students training.”
Sixty-nine CEC Officers and two Saudi Arabian Officers participated in the FTX supported by a cast of CECOS Basic Class instructors, Marines, and NMCB THREE Seabees. Students were trained in expeditionary operations during the five-day FTX. They set up camp and lived in a self-sufficient environment for the duration of the exercise.
CECOS Basic Class student, Chief Warrant Officer John Desarro said, “Having the urban training facility at Point Mugu made doing patrols in a real-time environment more realistic. The training obtained at Point Mugu gives the new officers a realistic view of what NMCBs deal with in urban environments.”
The FTX is strategically placed within the CECOS curriculum to give newly commissioned CEC officers and lateral transfers the chance to perform and execute skills learned in the classroom such as establishing camp, conducting patrols, leading convoys, operating the combat operations center, and mission planning to execute engineer reconnaissance operations.
“I feel fortunate the CECOS staff was able to find a way to keep the FTX in our course curriculum. With my first tour being a NAVFAC billet, the FTX provided a brief yet valuable exposure to what I will be expected to execute in the future. Simply learning what questions to ask and to who was my biggest takeaway,” said Ensign Michael Krestos.
The class is split into four squads; each squad includes a Marine, senior enlisted, and CEC officer advisor. Each student holds a leadership position during FTX. With the help of their squad’s advisory team, they learn and feel the pressure and importance of making quick decisions under stressful conditions, as well as the debrief procedures necessary upon completing a mission. Upon completing the FTX, students are rewarded with a valuable experience not only to take to their battalions, but also to use throughout the rest of their naval careers. Basic Class 255 is scheduled to graduate from the 17-week course on 20 Sep 2013.
For more information on the Civil Engineer Corps Officers School, visit their website: https://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/csfe/cecos/ .