NMCB 1 Drills for Liquid Gold in Ethiopia

By Petty Officer 1st Class Aron Taylor

Seabees attached to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 perform drilling operations in Challalumsa, Ethiopia.
Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Aron Taylor, NMCB 1 Public Affairs

Challalumsa is a very small village that you won’t find off the side of a main road, near a river, stream or even on a map.  This village is a treasure hidden in the desert near the town of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, and home to nearly 500 Somali Ethiopians. Life in Challalumsa is quiet and simple, and most work consists of herding camels, goats and donkeys. People travel up to 20 miles daily for fresh water. For that reason it is a perfect place to send a group of Navy Seabees to drill a well.

The Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 began their mission to bring water to the people of Challalumsa on Nov. 21. A pre-assessment was performed by Lt. j.g. Michael Gibson, officer-in-charge; Chief Equipment Operator (SCW) Tremayne Nicholson, assistant officer-in-charge; and Equipment Operator 1st Class (SCW) William Wilson, lead driller.

“During the assessment we met with the Village Elder to discuss the placement of the well, how many people the well will serve, the effect it will have on the village and job site safety,” said Gibson.

After the road leading to the well site was prepped, work on the well began Nov. 25. Equipment Operator 2nd Class (SCW) Corey Hileman worked to flatten some areas and dig out others, so that the T2W Water Well Rig and Tender would be able to reach the site. Once on-site, set up began with two 20-foot Container Express (CONEX) boxes, a 750-cubic-feet-per-minute (CFM) air compressor and well drilling materials.

A water well operation is a 24-hour-a-day mission divided into three eight-hour shifts. Each shift has a tower leader, derek hand, worm and mechanic.  The tower leader is in charge of his shift and controls the drill rig. His second in charge and right hand is the derek. The worm collects cutting samples and keeps the drilling mud program correct, and the mechanic keeps everything working properly.

The water well required a 250-foot depth to have an effective ground water flow that produces enough water for the village. The team worked four days and nights to reach this depth, overcoming a clogged mud pump, air in the hydraulic lines and cold, wet nights.

For the village of Challalumsa, Ethiopia, the placement and completion of this well means no more 20-mile hikes to get water – the liquid gold that keeps this village alive.


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