By MC2(SCW) Ace Rheaume, NMCB 5, and MC1 Jonathan Carmichael, NMCB 11
Seabees assigned to NMCB 5 use a block trainer module at the Seabee Technical Trainer (STT) in Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme, Calif., October 11. Photo by MC2(SCW) Ace Rheaume
NMCB 5 – First on the West Coast
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 were the first in the Naval Construction Force (NCF) on the West Coast to utilize the Seabee Technical Trainer (STT) at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme, Calif., in October.
“The Seabee Tech Trainer was constructed to replace the Seabee F-classes or Special Construction Battalion Training (SCBT) classes from Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC),” said 31st Seabee Readiness Group (SRG) Seabee Tech Trainer Manager Steelworker 1st Class Gerald Lis.
The STT is an area where battalions can instruct unit driven training (UDT) for skills they will utilize on future deployments.
Each area of the STT is specific for training modules ranging from construction masonry and roofing to sheet metal fabrication, interior wiring and light framing. NMCBs can schedule with the 31st SRG to use the facility and arrange use of materials for training.
“There are 12 different modules so we can practice the basic construction that we do on deployment,” said Builder 1st Class Moses Silva, NMCB 5 Charlie Company .
During each STT module, Seabees learn different construction skills. These skills are then put in the servicemembers’ record. The modules are taught by subject matter experts (SMEs) within the battalion who are qualified in that specialty.
“We decide which course of instruction we’re going to teach, we develop a plan for it, we do classroom for about 3-4 days, and then we come out here and do the practical application,” said Builder 2nd Class John Llewellyn, NMCB 5 Charlie Company.
“I think it is good to give more responsibilities to the SMEs of the units,” said Lis. “NCTC is a great place to train, but unfortunately the instructors there don’t deploy that unit. It also gives the crew leaders, project supervisors and their chain of command the ability to evaluate their personnel, and identify their strengths and weaknesses.”
Lis added that he envisions battalions benefiting from the knowledge they can learn by utilizing the STT now and in the future.
“With the past 10-plus years, most of the Seabee construction has been focused on contingency construction vice building to code (which the Seabees take pride in). [STT] will bring back skills like planning and estimating, project supervision and management, and utilizing their quality control and safety inspectors to make the unit successful in their missions,” said Lis.
BU3 Asia A. Gilchrist (left) and BU3 Joshua A. Chastain, both assigned to NMCB 11, prepare mortar during a masonry course that utilizes the Seabee Technical Trainer (STT), NCBC Gulfport, Miss., in October. Photo by MC1 Jonathan Carmichael
NMCB 11 – First on the East Coast
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 became the first on the East Coast to utilize the Seabee Technical Trainer (STT) on Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, Miss., in October.
Eleven students from NMCB 11 completed the four-day Tech Trainer Masonry course, Oct. 26, and earned the skill of Masonry Unit Construction-II.
What makes this unique in relation to other classes that Seabees participate in is the hands-on experience students gain by using the Technical Trainer. The only way that gaining experience like this would have been possible in the past would be through on-the-job project training with a hard deadline and little to no time for honing one’s skills.
Seabees have a diverse set of skills, but they do not always have the opportunity to practice all of those skills as his/her career progresses. According to course instructor Builder 1st Class Sidney Lyons, this is where the Technical Trainer comes in.
“It’s like a refresher,” said Lyons. “We get them back up to speed to be proficient at their job when they finally get there.”
Lyons knows firsthand how a training tool like this can be beneficial. He had a 10-year stretch, during his now 17.5-year Navy career, where he did not have the opportunity to work on projects requiring him to lay block. When Lyons was assigned as the subject matter expert to a project that entailed a lot of masonry he knew he was not ready.
To ensure that he wouldn’t fail at the task of leading a crew of junior Seabees on the project, Lyons bought some bricks and mortar, and practiced at home after working hours in the days leading up to the project. Through his self-training and practice, he was able to overcome the potential poor performance that years of not utilizing that skill may have caused.
A-schools, the primary means of rate training in the Navy, teach skills a Seabee needs to be successful in his or her rate. However, it is common for four or more years to pass before a Seabee encounters a situation that requires the skills learned in A-school. This can result in less-than-efficient performance for a project crew which may need time to retrain individuals.
Builder Constructionman Shaun Albright, NMCB 11, has been in the Navy for three years. As a student in the class, Albright said that he was rusty at first after not having practiced masonry since A-school. He marveled that having four days devoted to improving and practicing his masonry skills has brought it all back and made him more proficient.
“It takes a little bit of technique,” said Albright. “But once you get a good row going it’s just a matter of lining it up and leveling it off.”
Builder 3rd Class Asia Gilchrist is a student in the class. “The work is hard, but fun,” said Gilchrist, who also believes her experience in the class will help her career as a Navy Seabee.
In addition to masonry, the Technical Trainer facility currently includes training stations for utilities, pre-engineered buildings, overhead power lines, reinforced steel fabrication, interior finishes, concrete flatwork, concrete formwork, stair forms, steel fabrication and carpentry.
According to Chief Builder Anthony Boldrey, the concept of the Tech Trainer was born roughly five years ago, and construction on it has been ongoing for the past two to three years. Because NCBC Gulfport is home to multiple Seabee battalions, those not deployed built the Technical Trainer.
“It is in its infant stage,” said Boldrey, who emphasized that the Technical Trainer will continually evolve to meet the needs of the Seabees. Boldrey is the Technical Trainer chief in NMCB 11’s training department.