Seabees “Can Do!” Saves AFN Broadcast Center $130k

By MCCS(SW/AW) John Harrington, AFN Broadcast Center Public Affairs

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NMCB 4’s Petty Officer 1st Class Philip King (left) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Bradford Cook guide the 16,000-lb. diesel fuel tank from its former location to a large flatbed truck for transport, as AFN Broadcast Center Director David Gebhardt (back left) observes.  Photo by MCCS(SW/AW) John Harrington

A small team of U.S. Navy construction battalion Sailors – Seabees – saved the AFN Broadcast Center (AFN BC) roughly $130,000 in contracting costs by craning a diesel fuel tank to a new location within the facility.

Six Sailors from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4, Port Hueneme, Calif., brought in a crane to move the 16,000-lb. tank at the AFN BC facility in Riverside, Calif., Dec. 20, 2013, in support of the installation of a new emergency generator.

The AFN BC broadcasts 11 television channels and 10 radio channels via satellite 24 hours a day, 7 days a week around the world to nearly one million viewers and listeners in 173 countries and onboard dozens of deployed U.S. Navy ships. The fuel tank and generator will ensure that the AFN BC will be able to maintain its satellite feeds to overseas military, civilian government workers, retirees and their families in all but the worst of natural disasters.

“We needed to move the fuel tank to a better location to feed the new generator,” said AFN BC’s Deputy Director, U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Clearwater. “Initially, we received an original quote for $35k but that ballooned to $131k due to some contracting requirements. Like the rest of DoD, our budget has been dramatically curtailed and we just couldn’t support that. That’s when we reached out to the Seabees.”

Clearwater contacted Navy Construction Group (NCG) 1’s CMC Corey Heinrich, and the two began working details to determine the feasibility of the project. Fortunately, a crane crew was already assigned to constructing buildings for a new gun range at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, and a trip to Riverside was a convenient stopover as the crew made its way back north to Port Hueneme.

As the crew reviewed the final plan for the movement of the fuel tank, the confined area where the tank was originally housed was the most significant hurdle. Along either side of the narrow corridor where the tank rested were buildings containing high-value items critical to the generator project. A single miscalculation by any of the team members could result in catastrophic damage to either the tank or buildings, along with significant chance of injury to the Seabees.

“It’s a little awkward, but pretty simple,” said Petty Officer Fernando Mendoza, the crane operator for the job. “This isn’t new to me and I’m pretty good at it.”

The operation took about four hours and the Seabees said they loved the job.

“It’s awesome that we get to actually do real, not just training, lifts to support actual customers,” said Chief Petty Officer Scott Henske, load test director, NMCB 4.  “There’s no better training to do that than what we’re doing right now.”

The lift was special to Henske, Mendoza and the rest of the Seabees not just because it was a real-world operation, but because their client was one that had served them well in the past.

“I’ve been deployed overseas eight times,” said Henske.  “I got to watch the Super Bowl in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guam [because of AFN].  It’s a boost to morale for myself and for all of our troops that are deployed.”

“It’s good,” said Mendoza. “[AFN] helps us out with all the channels, so it’s nice to be able to give a little back.”

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