By NMCB 5 Public Affairs
Cmdr. Cameron Geertsema, commanding officer, NMCB 5, right, exchanges salutes with Cmdr. Gordon Meeks, commanding officer, NMCB 3, during a change of charge ceremony on Camp Shields. Photos by MC1 John P. Curtis
NMCB 5 completed turning over the Seabee’s Pacific Naval Construction Force missions to NMCB 3 during a transfer of authority ceremony on Camp Shields, the Seabee camp in Okinawa, August 18.The change of charge marked the official end of an eight month deployment for NMCB 5 after a two week turnover with NMCB 3.
Capt. Rodney Moore, commodore of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, was the keynote speaker for the turnover ceremony.
“I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to the people you worked with on the exercises. Each one was extremely grateful for your exceptional work,” said Moore when talking to NMCB 5 personnel.
“You did an excellent job throughout the Pacific.”
NMCB 5 arrived early in January to Camp Shields, the main body site for the battalion, and relieved NMCB 74. While headquartered at Camp Shields, the battalion sent Seabee details to 20 locations in 13 countries across the Pacific. Some of the details dispatched were to Chinhae, South Korea; Diego Garcia; Guam; Cambodia; Puerto Princesa, Philippines; Timor Leste; China Lake, Calif.; and Atsugi, Sasebo, and Yokosuka, Japan.
NMCB 5 also sent Seabees to support nine multi-national military exercises. The focus of most exercises was skills exchange, joint partnership, humanitarian assistance and disaster recovery. During these exercises Seabees worked alongside the host nation’s military engineers and the local civilians along with other participating foreign organizations.
“When our people come back from all of these exercises, it’s exciting to hear their stories about what they did and who they met and how they interacted with not just the militaries but with locals and the children,” said Cmdr. Cameron Geertsema, the commanding officer of NMCB 5.
“There is a collective feeling that we made a difference and we were out there building relationships that go beyond the military relationship, they were personal relationships between friends.”
The exercises on NMCB 5’s deployment were Balikatan in Philippines; Cobra Gold in Thailand; Association of Southeast Asian Nations Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise (AHMX) in Brunei Darussalam; Combined Joint Logistics Over the Shore (CJLOTS) in South Korea; Pacific Partnership 2013 in Tonga and Samoa; and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Philippines.
n addition to exercises, the Seabees have more enduring engagements at Civic Construction Action Details (CCAD) that build relationships and promote regional security. NMCB 5 sent CCADs to Timor Leste, Philippines and Cambodia on this deployment.
For eight months the CCADs worked with local military, government officials and citizens improving government infrastructure, health clinics, and schools. In Cambodia, the Seabees also engaged in water well operations to dig and repair wells.
At a recent ribbon cutting in Western Timor Leste, where a Seabee CCAD worked rehabilitating a health clinic, U.S. Ambassador to Timor Leste Judith Fergin said, “It’s absolutely amazing to see the great amount of work that a small number of Seabees made in such a short time. You may not realize, but the impact you have made here is beyond words.”
The Seabees in Timor Leste made renovations and built classrooms at 24 schools and made renovations to six health clinics; making structural repairs, repairing ambulances and generators, and improving water filtration and plumbing.
“Throughout all of the locations we distributed our people, their operations and conduct built upon the Seabee legacy in the Pacific,” said Geertsema.
“One thing I have noticed since I took command in June is that in everything they do, NMCB 5’s Seabees have a pride and professionalism that is second to none.”
After the “Professionals” of NMCB 5’s battalion colors were lowered at the transfer of authority ceremony on Camp Shields, NMCB 3’s colors were raised.
One of the first battalions commissioned during World War II, NMCB 3’s legacy stands strong in its ability to build and fight anywhere in the world as either a full battalion or as a group of autonomous detachments, simultaneously completing critical engineering and construction missions.
For this deployment, NMCB 3 has split into 9 details to perform critical construction projects in remote island areas such as Timor-Leste, Tonga, Cambodia and the Philippines. The teams will also conduct operations in Atsugi, Yokosuka and Okinawa, Japan; Chinhae, South Korea and China Lake, Calif.
“Our mission in the Pacific is an important one,” said Cmdr. Gordon Meeks, commanding officer of NMCB 3.
“NMCB 3 is headquartered in Okinawa, but I have details across the Pacific performing critical construction projects important to ensuring peace and stability in the region. We are proud of the work we are performing, grateful to our host nations for having us as neighbors and grateful to NMCB 5 for setting us up for success. You truly are ‘The Professionals.’”
The Naval Construction Force is a vital component of the U.S. Maritime Strategy. They provide deployable battalions capable of providing disaster preparation and recovery support, humanitarian assistance and combat operations support.
With NMCB 5 now relieved in the Pacific, NMCB 3 is the on-deck battalion to provide combatant commanders and Navy component commanders with combat-ready warfighters capable of general engineering, construction and limited combat engineering across the full range of military operations.
Both NMCB 3 and 5 are homeported in Port Hueneme, Calif.
NMCB 5 command colors are lowered during a change of charge ceremony with NMCB 3 on Camp Shields in Okinawa.
NMCB 3 command colors are hoisted up the flag pole during a change of charge ceremony with NMCB 5 on Camp Shields in Okinawa.
CE1 Anthony Martinez changes the Camp Shields welcome sign following a change of charge ceremony between NMCB 3 and NMCB 5 on Camp Shields in Okinawa.