By MC2 Anthony R. Martinez, Expeditionary Combat Camera
NMCB 25’s Det. 4 is evaluated during a final evaluation problem scenario of field exercise Bearing Duel 01-14, Camp Shelby, Miss., March 21. Bearing Duel 01-14 allows Exercise Control Group members of NCG 2 to assess NMCB 25 in tactical and professional skills prior to an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. Photo by MC2 Anthony R. Martinez
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 25 earned their certification for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan during a seven-day field exercise, Bearing Duel 01-14, Camp Shelby, Miss., March 22.
Cmdr. Jennifer L. Donahue, commanding officer, NMCB 25, said the accomplishment demonstrates the battalion’s abilities.
“It shows we are proficient in several skills, such as manning an entry control point, perimeter defense and deployment of weapons,” Donahue said. “Through all of that, we get certified so that we’re ready to go and execute our mission.”
That mission, according to Donahue, is unique. NMCB 25 will train, advise and assist some members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) throughout their deployment as the National Engineering Brigade (NEB).
Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2’s personnel ran the field exercise, and their Exercise Control Group (ECG) instructed and graded throughout the week.
The ECG, consisting of 150 military and civilian personnel, uses a performance evaluation system during Bearing Duel 01-14 to assess the battalion’s actions during scenarios similar to those they may encounter while on deployment.
“We tailored our training very specifically to support the mission they’re going downrange for,” said Lt. Kevin Westbrook, NCG 2 ECG officer-in-charge. “This is the only opportunity they’ve had to practically apply what they’ve learned to effectively communicate, engage and interact with folks.”
Donahue said a third of NMCB 25’s Seabees were involved in the NEB portion of Bearing Duel 01-14.
“Most of the Afghan contractors [who] were employed never had any construction skills whatsoever,” said Donahue. “It was a great chance for Seabees to really learn how to work through interpreters to get a structure built.”
Not only did the exercise allow the Seabees of NMCB 25 to work with Afghans, but it also allowed them to work with each other since the battalion is comprised of Reservists.
“This is the perfect opportunity to bring everybody together as a team,” said Donahue.
On top of that, Donahue said that nearly half of the Reservists with NMCB 25 are Individual Augmentees (IAs) who volunteered to work with the battalion.
One of the IAs, originally from NMCB 22, was in the process of joining another uniformed team in Texas.
“I was getting ready to go into the police academy until I got my orders to come out here,” said BU2 Ricky Tolentino, a .50 caliber machine-gun operator from NMCB 25’s Detachment 4. “It was either this or that, and really this was more important to me.
Tolentino, who was also deployed to Iraq, said that although he has two young boys back in Texas he will miss, this deployment was important for a couple of reasons.
“Getting my Iraq Campaign [Medal] was a great feeling, but if I can get both Iraq and Afghanistan, it’d be a great accomplishment for me,” said Tolentino. “Well, definitely being the last battalion to be going to Afghanistan is the biggest thing.”
During a visit to the field exercise, Capt. Dave Marasco, commodore, 9th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR), said he was proud of NMCB 25 and its sister units.
“I’m very proud of [NMCB] 25,” said Marasco. “As a regiment, I certainly will speak to the fact that it is the last deployment coming from 9th Naval Construction Regiment.”
“As a Seabee you start a job and you want to finish it,” said SWCS Thomas M. Shea, senior enlisted advisor, NMCB 25’s Detachment 4. “A lot of the time we’re called the ambassadors of the Navy, doing humanitarian assistance, building schools and wells, and training others.”
Shea has been deployed to Afghanistan twice before. The father of five, he said the Seabees couldn’t get the job done without the help of others.
“My wife is tremendous. She’s what keeps it all going. She’s a trooper. I’ve been on six deployments and she’s been great throughout every one of them. She takes care of everything,” said Shea. “The folks back home don’t get enough credit that they deserve. Those are the people…the unsung heroes.”
One challenge for Reservists is the act of balancing a civilian job and military duties, Donahue said.
“You go to work every day and it’s very important, but there’s something about being in the military,” said Donahue. “It gives people a sense of pride in what they do and that’s what you find in a lot of these people who have volunteered. That’s why they’re here. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves in order to help out another country.”
Shea said doing things for others gives a lot of service members pride.
“It may sound corny, but I honestly believe they do it because of patriotism,” he said. “I believe in what we’re doing and I just think the Seabees are probably one of the greatest units there is.”
Shea, a Massachusetts native and originally from NMCB 27, said it feels like a second family.
“I’ve been treated great. You know a Seabee’s a Seabee and anytime you’re in the green machine it’s home,” said Shea. “The people I’ve met…truly some of the best people I’ve met in my life.”