By Senior Chief Equipment Operator Matthew P. Dooley, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 Public Affairs
Power lines bent over by Hurricane Sandy line the streets as a Seabee assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, stationed out of Gulfport, Miss., drives a forklift down a road during hurricane relief efforts in Seaside Heights. NMCB-11 is operating under the U.S. Northern Command Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission, working closely with civil authorities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron/Released)
Ninety Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 are returning home to Gulfport, Miss. this week after spending the past two weeks providing disaster response support in New Jersey and New York.
NMCB-11 was ordered to support federal, state, and local authorities in disaster recovery operations in the New Jersey and New York areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. The order came just days after the battalion’s Air Det reorganized into its traditional structure of 89 Seabees who are ready on a moment’s notice to respond worldwide to contingency, disaster and humanitarian relief operations.
The Air Detachment was able to mount out a total of 90 people, 94 pieces of civil engineering support equipment including front end loaders, backhoes, pumps, generators and storage containers. Additionally, more than 75 various tool kits and other support equipment were safely loaded for the convoy north.
Upon arrival at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, located in Lakehurst, New Jersey, the Air Detachment hit the ground running under operational control of Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 2, task-tailoring multiple teams with various capabilities that were ready to deploy throughout the affected areas.
The Seabees’ first mission, saw 45 people with heavy equipment support, involved clearing hundreds of tons of debris from Seaside Heights, N.J. In addition to debris, the team removed more than 80 cars, boats and other large objects which had been swept away and displaced during the storm surge. They also successfully tackled a more than 210,000-gallon dewatering project to aid local authorities in gaining access to water and gas lines for repair, and to reach roadways inaccessible from sink holes and storm damage.
Led by Chief Construction Electrician Robert F. Barrett, the team provided several days of support working a 50-block area alongside other military and civilian counterparts.
“I’m happy we are able to assist the people of New Jersey during a very challenging time. Our troops are doing a fantastic job and making a positive impact here in the communities,” said Barrett.
In addition to the efforts in the Seaside Heights area, another detachment worked diligently in the Sea Bright area.
On Staten Island, a 40-person crew led by Ensign Wesley M. Allen and Chief Builder Cortny G. Johnson worked with local authorities to clean up the areas around Miller Field and surrounding neighborhoods.
The Seabees also worked feverishly to unearth and completely clean up a local World War II Veterans Memorial adjacent to Miller Field in time for Veterans Day.
“The entire memorial was buried in sand,” explained Johnson. “Our troops took a personal interest in ensuring this memorial was restored to its original condition. It took a full day’s work with heavy equipment and multiple personnel to accomplish the task. It’s extremely rewarding being able to help so many people affected by the storm and being able to clean up this memorial is an added bonus for us and the city of Staten Island,” said Johnson.
Meanwhile, three Seabees provided around-the clock-assistance at the Hoboken, N.J. Ferry Terminal providing nine light plants which illuminated the terminal and allowed safe passage of traffic during peak commuting hours.
Elsewhere at Floyd Bennett Airfield in New York, a team of 25 Seabees supported clean up and debris removal operations in and around the Breezy Point area along with multiple other military and civilian support teams. As civilian relief efforts in the New York and New Jersey area continue, the Seabees will head back to their home station and are confident they provided a critical support function assisting federal, state and local government.
While the Seabees accomplished quite a bit in support of relief efforts, moving them 1,400 miles from their home base in Gulfport was a logistical challenge of its own.
Because the Seabee trucks and equipment run on military jet fuel, refueling must be done at military bases along the route. Additionally, suitable berthing needed to be found as troops must be well rested for their driving and daily operational commitments.
With the assistance of the Movement Control Center (MCC) East, under the direction of Mr. Mike Noggle as Operations Manager, NMCB 11 personnel uploaded cargo onto 20 Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements (MTVR) tractor trailers and cargo trucks.
“We wanted to ensure the Battalion stepped off on time with the first of three convoy configurations; we offered our help” said Noggle. By providing two additional forklifts from their shop, two operators, a runner for additional cargo straps, shoring and chafing material MCC East was able to provide a much needed helping hand.
“Ground movements normally don’t involve the Movement Control Center other than building the Time Phase Force Deployment Data and determining a mode/source for movement in the event aircraft became available but under these unusual circumstances of going from an air movement to a ground movement at the 11th hour we felt the need to assist in any way we could. We pride ourselves in customer service and work very well under pressure to meet short fused time lines such as sending Seabees forward to provide disaster relief efforts to the East coast,” added Noggle.
In addition, NMCB 11’s Alfa Company, partnering with the 20th Seabee Readiness Group (SRG), R43 Equipment Management Department, led the way with equipment preparation, joint inspection and operational testing of all heavy equipment needed for the mission.
Working 24-hour operations, they were able to safely work with the embarkation team and allow Air Det personnel the much needed time to prepare personal gear and get affairs in order before deploying.
“The entire mount out process was an unbelievable collaboration of teamwork and dedication on multiple fronts. Alfa Company being the equipment specialists, supply department personnel, Table of Allowance managers, Embarkation professionals, Intelligence Specialists and supporting staff personnel all made this process a resounding success,” explained Lt. Edward Fosson, the Air Det Officer in Charge.
On the 31st of October, just 39 hours after initial notification the first chalk of vehicles and equipment left Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport. Three other groups of personnel and equipment followed over a 24-hour period.
Fosson expressed the battalion’s gratitude for the cooperative efforts that helped them achieve the successful haul from Gulfport to the affected areas. “The assistance we were provided with from Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, Dobbins ARB in Georgia, Fort Gordon, Georgia, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Fort Lee, Virginia, Andrews AFB in Maryland, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst here in New Jersey has been absolutely phenomenal.”
NMCB-11 returned home to Gulfport, Miss. in September following a successful eight-month deployment to Afghanistan. The battalion continues training and exercises in preparation for its next deployment less than a year from now.