By MC1 Charles Panter, NMCB 4 PAO
Seabees from NMCB 4’s CCAD Philippines remove debris following demolition of buildings damaged by Typhoon Yolanda in the town of Aloguinsan, Cebu, Philippines, Aug. 26. Photos by CM3 Steven McAlister
With the arrival of NMCB 4 Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD) Philippines on Cebu Island, the United States and the Philippines continue to build on more than 110 years of military cooperation. The nature of the relationship has varied greatly in the last century, from a government run by the American military shortly after the Spanish-American War to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s defeat of the Japanese in Philippines during WWII to the annual military exercises and security cooperation events the two countries enjoy today. CCAD Philippines’ mission continues to develop the partnership between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. military through joint construction operations.
EACN Alicia Deguzman, NMCB 4 CCAD Philippines, sets up survey equipment with the help of CECN Christopher Evenson, NMCB 4, before the placement of concrete footers for a shade structure in the town of Toledo, Cebu, Philippines, Aug. 26.
Today, Naval Construction Force (NCF) units participate in annual Pacific Partnership and Balikatan exercises in the Philippines. The CCAD in particular has played an important and notable role in that effort, including both exercises this year. Lt. Cmdr. Jim Alagao, AFP Central Command (CENTCOM) public affairs officer, reflected on his interaction with the NCF Sailors during those events.
“I was also able to witness this year’s Pacific Partnership in Tacloban [on the island of Leyte]. All I can say is that the USN Seabees are professional and selfless servicemen,” Alagao said. “They were able to touch the lives of the local populace and made a great difference.”
NMCB 4’s CCAD follow in the footsteps of other NCF units, working with Philippine Army engineers and Philippine Navy Seabees. The team focused on areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda which caused massive destruction in the Philippines in 2013 and in other areas traditionally difficult to access by local governments.
Seabees from NMCB 4 discuss plans to build a three-classroom schoolhouse with Ms. Rina Managatay, principal of Aloguinsan Central School, while being greeted with smiles and waves from local children, Aloguinsan, Philippines, Aug. 20.
In coordination with the U. S. Embassy, four local townships, called “barangays,” will receive U.S. and Philippine construction project support. Starting in late September, the combined U.S.-Philippine team will construct two new schoolhouses in Barangay Poog in Toledo and Barangay Poblacion in Aloguinsan. Additionally, the NCF and AFP will renovate existing youth rehabilitation facilities and safe havens for women in Barangays Argao and Labangon, respectively.
After one month on ground, the CCAD continues to synchronize its efforts with AFP’s CENTCOM Civil Military Operations Staff (U7) and Philippine counterparts prior to the start of construction in mid-September. On a daily basis, detail leadership coordinate with local officials who are stakeholders in the projects. The CCAD and U7 work shoulder to shoulder engaging the Philippine Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Cities of Toledo and Aloguinsan, barangay officials, school administrators and parent teacher associations.
EO3 Adelaida Dacanay guides EOCN Henry Davis, both assigned to NMCB 4, in a skid steer during the initial construction phase of a three-classroom schoolhouse at Aloguinsan Central School in Aloguinsan, Philippines, Aug. 20.
The CCAD mission in the Philippines has been ongoing for 2 years, but NMCB 4’s team is only the second such detail to work on Cebu Island. This brings with it a host of opportunities and challenges. Every member, especially when in uniform, is equally welcomed and stared at curiously in areas not often visited by Americans. The Seabees have also had to adapt to the constantly balmy climate as well as the unique cultural differences in the Philippines.
The detail has also had to modify construction methods to match local standards of construction and availability of material.
“Finding suitable materials and price haggling with local hardware suppliers definitely presented challenges,” explained Builder 2nd Class Jennifer Milligan, a crew leader for one of NMCB 4’s CCAD projects. “We were able to overcome these challenges, including the language barrier, to complete our tasks and learn local business techniques for our future projects.”
One thing helping the detail to acclimate to their new surroundings is the presence of native speakers. They teach their fellow Seabees about Philippine culture and act as interpreters both on and off the job site.
“[Members’] ability to speak the language is critical,” Steelworker 1st Class Michael Rogers, community service projects supervisor. “Without [native speakers] we would not be able to get our work done and grow our partnership [with the Philippine military].”
One such NMCB 4 member is Engineering Aide 3rd Class Aliciapia Dacanay. She is equally as appreciative to return to the Philippines.
“I feel grateful to be able to give back to this country,” Dacanay said. “Not much has changed since I left 13 years ago, and I’m really excited to share my life with my fellow Seabees. They get to see firsthand how Filipinos are [and] appreciate our culture…and they can understand me better.”
BUCN Chase Wade, NMCB 4, fosters relations with the local people by posing for a picture with children in the town of Aloguinsan, Cebu, Philippines, Aug. 26.
The Seabees of CCAD Philippines remain eager to work with their Philippine counterparts and help the community around them. They are members of an enduring partnership between the U.S. and Philippine governments, and follow a long line of units who have proudly represented the NCF.
“I have been with the USN Seabees in various activities and projects,” Lt. Cmdr. Alagao added. “For the last seven months I was fortunate enough to lay witness to the guys who built school buildings in Carcar, Cebu. On behalf of the people in Cebu I say, ‘Thanks to you, guys.’”
Seabees from NMCB 4’s CCAD Philippines widen and improve an access road to a local barangay hall or municipal center in the town of Aloguinsan, Cebu, Philippines, Aug. 26, to ease traffic in the area.