By Daryl C. Smith, Public Affairs Officer, 1st Naval Construction Division
As members of the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (NCR), Task Force Stethem, took part in a transfer of authority ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, July 31, they marked not just the end of their six-month deployment to Afghanistan, but also the last Seabee regiment to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The story began when the 1st NCR deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in September 2008. During their deployment, they were ordered to redeploy the regiment, along with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7, from Iraq to Afghanistan.
This involved relocating more than 425 personnel, 256 pieces of heavy equipment, and 87 containers by air and sea. Once relocated to Afghanistan, 1NCR led one NMCB and a large NMCB Detail (Det), as well as an Air Force Expeditionary Red Horse Group. As a major subordinate command of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, they accomplished critical airfield expansions, forward operating base (FOB) construction and other force protection infrastructure projects throughout the region to enable NATO forces and the Afghani government to begin to take control in the region.
1st NCR was relieved by 25th NCR in February 2009 in Regional Command South. In preparation for a troop build-up of more than 15,000 forces, 25th NCR directed the construction and expansion of various combat outposts (COPs) and FOBs. Leading a construction force of one NMCB, an NMCB Det, two Army Engineer Battalions, an Air Force Red Horse Group and several Army and Air Force facilities engineer teams, they completed more than 250 projects valued at more than $183.4 million. This included establishment of command and control facilities for six staff headquarters, improvement of force protection at 11 FOBs and bed-down facilities for more than 10,300 coalition troops.
In August 2009, 30th NCR deployed to the region as Commander of Task Force Forager and a major subordinate command under U.S. Forces Afghanistan and Regional Command South. They directed the construction and expansion of numerous COPs and FOBs in support of four brigade-size maneuver commands and one infantry battalion.
In December 2009, President Barack Obama announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to the region. 30NCR’s forces swelled to more than 4,500 Navy, Army and Air Force engineers, including three NMCBs, two Army Engineer Battalions, one Air Force Red Horse group and several Army and Air Force facilities engineer teams. In support of the troop surge, they expanded the number of COPs and FOBs from eight to 24, constructed more than two million square feet of additional berthing and command and control space, 18.7 miles of aircraft matting, and six water wells.
22nd NCR deployed to Afghanistan in February 2010 as commander of Task Force Alliance and a major subordinate command under U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Joint Force Engineering Command and Regional Command South, supporting seven brigade-level maneuver elements. The 6,000-person joint engineer force was comprised of three Army Engineer Battalions, four NMCBs, two Air Force Squadrons, one Marine Corps Airfield Engineer Detachment and Defense Department civilians. They completed more than 375 projects on more than 30 FOBs, including the following: base perimeter expansions up to six miles, 23 command and control facilities, two rotary wing airfields, 23 water wells, tactical bridging, more than 180,000 square feet of berthing facilities to house 24,000 personnel, three aircraft runways and various other force protection improvements. Engineer battalions completed more than 1,900 missions clearing more than 127,000 kilometers of key transportation routes. They also built and expanded four FOBs in support of the 2/101st Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
3rd NCR deployed to the region in August 2010 as commander of Task Force Keystone under International Joint Command and U.S. Forces Afghanistan. 3NCR led 5,300 Navy, Army and Air Force engineers including four NMCBs, three Army Engineer Battalions, one Air Force Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron, and several Army and Air Force Facilities Engineer Teams. They completed more than 400 projects to more than 25 COPs and FOBs and provided critical tactical infrastructure enabling combat operations in the region. Accomplishments included 32 COPs, 15 watch towers, six strong points, three vehicular blocking positions, three expeditionary gap crossings and 18 road improvement projects. They improved 35 kilometers of roads, installed 15 bridges and drilled 29 water wells. They also provided support to village stability operations and border security. 3rd NCR deployed a regimental forward element to meet demands of clear and hold operations in Hamkari and Sagin River Valley. 3rd NCR also provided leadership to two Army Route Clearance Battalions that traveled more than 359,000 kilometers across five provinces.
In February 2011, 25th NCR replaced 3rd NCR in Afghanistan as commander of Task Force Overlord, supporting three regional commands comprising approximately half of the country. They led a multi-service force of 10 subordinate units totaling more than 4,200 personnel. They oversaw route-clearing operations and provided construction support to 14 brigade-level Army, Marine and Coalition armed forces commands supporting counterinsurgency operations during a critical period when momentum in southern Afghanistan shifted in favor of the government. 3rd NCR oversaw construction of five COPs, four roads, three border checkpoints, two large highway inspection stations, 11 surveillance sites, 19 command and control facilities, 12 water wells, an improved ribbon bridge across the Helmand River and two tactical bridges on Afghanistan’s main highway.
30th NCR deployed to the region again in August 2011 as commander of Task Force Forager, reporting to both International Security Assistance Force Unit Joint Command and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and leading about 4,200 engineers. They oversaw a variety of projects including nine water wells, five check points, 10 COPs, nine persistent ground surveillance system sites, and the placement and emergency repairs of five bridges on critical supply routes. They also oversaw route clearance operations for theater, regional and provincial routes.
In February 2012, 22nd NCR deployed for a second and final time to Afghanistan. As Task Force Stethem, they led a multi-service force of approximately 1,900 engineers. They executed vital freedom of maneuver projects, force protection measures, water wells, bridges and tactical infrastructure projects to enhance combat power, command and control, and survivability for coalition forces combating insurgents in southern and western Afghanistan. The regiment also partnered with the U.S. Air Force’s 443rd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron to train and instruct Afghan engineers assigned Kandahar Airfield and the 205th Corps of the Afghan National Army.
“Finally, you effectively set the operational conditions for successful mission execution of the CENTCOM Material Recovery Element, directly enabling the Presidential order to drawdown U.S. forces in Afghanistan,” said Rear Adm. Mark Handley, Commander, 1NCD, in a message to the regiment. 22nd NCR returned to Gulfport, Miss., in August.