CECOS Basic Class 257 Officers Train in Simulated Hostile Environment

By Ens. Cassandra Fach, CECOS Public Affairs

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Ens. Eric Johnson provides tactical guidance to his squad members during the CECOS Basic Class 257 Field Training Exercise, Point Mugu, Calif. Photo by UTC Scott Field

Well before dawn on July 13, members of Civil Engineer Corps Officers School (CECOS) Basic Class 257 headed to Point Mugu, Calif., to participate in a five-day Field Training Exercise (FTX). The FTX would provide an opportunity to exercise the skills they had learned in a classroom for several weeks leading up to this day.

The 36 active duty Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) officers and 10 Reserve officers were divided into four squads. Each squad was assigned an advisory team consisting of a seasoned CEC officer, a Seabee senior enlisted member and a Marine gunnery sergeant. The advisory teams supported the squad with the goal of properly resourcing and meeting challenges throughout the FTX evolution.

Enlisted members from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 instructed each squad on how to erect their Combat Operations Center (COC) tent. In addition, each squad received training on radio communications, COC Boards, terrain maps and security patrols. The security patrols provided unique challenges combining squad tactics, operational procedures and radio communications.

“We were surprised when a man in civilian clothes walked up to us holding an IED,” said Ens. Gafar Odufuye, third squad patrol leader. “After the patrol, our advisors explained to us that in Iraq civilians would walk an IED up to Soldiers because they were trying to help us find them, but our lack of experience influenced the way the encounter was handled.”

Ens. David Perez, first squad’s second patrol leader,echoed similar challenges.

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Squad members actively engage in security patrol maneuvers during the CECOS Basic Class 257 Field Training Exercise, Point Mugu, Calif. Photo by BUC Travis Peppers

“We would automatically assume that every vehicle and person we saw was a potential threat which made for a very slow and arduous patrol,” Perez said.

Lessons learned from day one would prove critical for each squad’s first Engineering Reconnaissance Mission on day two. Message traffic increased by more than 50 percent to simulate a contingency environment where the flow of information is constant and varied. After returning from the mission, each squad prepared an engineering solution and an after-action briefing for the FTX leadership team.

“The biggest challenge was not having enough time to develop a solution to a problem I had never encountered before,” said Alex Liu, second squad engineering reconnaissance officer in charge (OIC).

After a late night spent planning for the next four engineering reconnaissance missions, each squad had to determine the feasibility of an engineering solution within the commander’s intent. The FTX was secured on day four when the camp was broken down and weapons were cleaned.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Jordan, CECOS Basic Course director and FTX OIC, designed this training exercise to provide theory and practical application based on four fundamental principles: patrolling, COC, engineering reconnaissance and leadership. CECOS Basic Class members included newly minted officers with a variety of engineering degrees, lateral transfers from the Surface, Aviation and Submarine communities, and Limited Duty Officers (LDOs) with 15 years of experience in the Seabees.

According to Jordan, members of CECOS Basic Class 257 learned many valuable lessons including the importance of preparing a defensible solution to understand the constraints of a given project.

“It is critical for each CEC Officer to understand which engineering doctrine to access in order to get the job done,” Jordan said.

For more information on the Civil Engineer Corps Officers School, visit the website: https://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/csfe/cecos/ .

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