Seabees Construct Joint Ops Center for Exercise Eager Lion 12

Story and photos by Sgt. Nathan Booth, CJTF Spartan Public Affairs

Petty Officer 3rd Class Erick Martin, NMCB 7, paints the Exercise Eager Lion 12 logo on the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center. Seabees from NMCB 7 completed the construction of 30 offices and a four-tiered, theater- style command center in less than two weeks.

Seabees from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 completed construction on a joint operations center (JOC) for Exercise Eager Lion 12 on the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center, Amman, Jordan, May 5.

Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) Spartan JOC houses offices that coordinate and guide day-to-day operations of units participating in Exercise Eager Lion, an annual exercise held in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan throughout May. Overall, Eager Lion is an exercise designed to promote cooperation and interoperability among more than 11,000 participating troops, build functional capacity and enhance readiness.

Originally slated to be a series of white tables in a warehouse with a few partitions, the Seabees transformed the JOC concept into 30 walled offices and a four-tiered, theater-style command center in less than two weeks.

“It was a lot of hard work and gray hair,” Builder 1st Class Jason Fletcher, NMCB 7, said, “but to wrap up this portion, we’re happy…very impressed with what we’ve been able to do in this short amount of time.”

The unit’s initial mission for Exercise Eager Lion 12 was to support Navy SEALs taking part in the exercise.

“Once I started talking to the SEALs, people recognized there were engineers available for the exercise and the requirement grew from four Seabees all the way up to 27 Seabees,” Lt. Francis Tay, 25th Naval Construction Regiment, said. “As that requirement grew, we picked up the JOC project from the CJTF to set up their headquarters.”

The first challenge the Seabees faced was combining sailors from different groups for the exercise.

“Knowing that we were getting outside support from another detachment that we hadn’t worked with before, I was a little nervous at first,” BU1 Fletcher, acting officer-in-charge for the project, said. “We were here half a day and the first thing we did was play a football game. It was a big teambuilding thing.

“I got a phone call that said the materials were here and said, ‘It’s time to go to work boys.’ And they were able to turn their hat back around and the next thing you know saws were going,” Fletcher said.

According to Fletcher, the team quickly meshed.

“I just kind of stood back, amazed. As the leader of a group of people, you always want to make sure they do their thing and follow up, but I didn’t have to do that much here,” Fletcher said. “Everyone knew their part and did their piece.”

The next obstacle was a mix-up with materials.

“The wrong size tinder, having two-by-eights instead of two-by-twelves, that was a feat,” Fletcher said. “To think that a bunch of 20-year-old kids, young men, with a semi-experienced guy and a really sharp lieutenant 30 minutes later devised a plan and said, ‘Let’s do this. We can’t let this stop us – we’re Seabees.’”

After overcoming initial challenges, the team started the project.

“’Bees started buzzing, lumber started getting cut, hammers started swinging and the next thing you know we have this first section,” Fletcher said. “It went slow at first, but once we got the hang of what we were doing it went fast – real fast.”

At the end of day one, the Seabees had the framework of the entire building completed.

“You could see the pride in their faces at the end of the first day,” Fletcher said. “We were ahead of schedule the entire time we were here and it wasn’t because we cracked the whip or worked tons of long hours; it was because they were motivated.”

Less than two weeks later the building was completed, providing a home for the majority of CJTF Spartan’s command team.

“We’re definitely proud of that fact,” BU3 Michael Johnston, NMCB 7, said. “You can see our sticker on every door. They’ll put it to good use.”

Fletcher says he is also proud of his Seabees’ work.

“I’ve worked with similar groups and different countries, but to know that not only myself, but my Seabees, set the footprint to make this exercise happen, to know that these people are going to come in here to use this,” Fletcher said, “it gives me chills.”

However, there is still work to be done for the Seabees in Exercise Eager Lion 12 and beyond.

“These guys are bursting from the seams with pride at what they’ve provided here and all the partner nations are going to see their work,” Lt. Tay said. “The only step up for us would be to do this with the Jordanian engineers, which is what we’re trying to do in future instances.”

“We just want to continue to do what we’re doing and continue the legacy of the Seabees,” Fletcher said. “I think we’re off to a great start.”

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