NMCB 11 ‘Bees Conduct Water Well Training: By the Book and in the Field

By CECN Jamette Coleman, NMCB 11 Public Affairs

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EO2 Earnest Wilson and CM1 Colter Smith both assigned to NMCB 11, observe the air development stage of the well drilling operation, Camp Shelby, Miss., Aug. 9. Photos by CECN Jamette Coleman

Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 conducted water well training, through classroom lectures and labs, as well as a week-long field exercise, Camp Shelby, Miss., July 21 – Aug. 15.

Lecture topics focused on fundamentals of soils, aquifers, well types, the hydrological cycle, on-site jobs, drill equipment and operations. Hands-on classroom opportunities included mud labs, disassembling and re-assembling a fluid-operated percussion drill bit, and operating the T2W truck-mounted water well drilling rig.

During the week-long field exercise, Seabees conducted 24-hour drilling operations to reach a depth of 200 feet, penetrating through the water table and into an aquifer. The borehole began with air rotary drilling using a 16-inch drill bit to a depth of 10 feet. PVC surface casing was installed to keep the ground from eroding while drilling the borehole. Seabees then used the mud rotary method to drill to 200 feet, using an 8-inch drill bit followed by a 12-inch drill bit. Drilling speeds ranged from 3½ to 4 minutes per foot.

Once the desired depth was reached, PVC well screens were inserted. ‘Bees conducted water development for one day, followed by a day of air development to remove unconsolidated soil and increase water productivity.

“The drilling operation was very well executed by the instructors and students,” said Equipment Operator 1st Class Gary Sheppard, an exercise instructor. “The drillers grasped the concept, and mud-mixing operations were maintained at the necessary consistency to allow fluent drilling. As a whole the class displayed great teamwork.”

Equipment Operator 1st Class Leigh’Anna Herring, project assistant officer in charge, added, “From speaking with the instructors this was the most successful drilling operation since 2012. The drill operation went smoothly and we actually hit a great well.”

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EO3 Joseph Self and EO2 Earnest Wilson, both assigned to NMCB 11, inspect drill cuttings every 5 feet to monitor penetration of subsurface materials, Camp Shelby, Miss., Aug. 5.

Water well operations are an essential part of the Seabee role in humanitarian missions and contingency operations. In his 18 years of service, Chief Equipment Operator Toby Davis has worked on more than 20 well drilling operations in locations including Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. Davis spoke of the benefit of water well operations and what it takes to be a successful driller.

“I remember a mission at a camp that spent $4,500,000 a year on water. We came in and drilled two wells for the price of $238,000,” Davis said. “Water well missions are pivotal requirements in the battalion; well capability is the most visible of all of our missions since 99% directly support warfighters or humanitarian missions. This is the most challenging of projects that we have as Seabees because it is a displaced mission with a small team, small unit, yet a big mission.”

NMCB 11 is a Seabee battalion specializing in contingency construction, disaster response and humanitarian assistance. The battalion’s homeport is in Gulfport, Miss. The Naval Construction Force (NCF) is a vital component of the U.S. Maritime Strategy. The NCF offers deployable battalions capable of providing contingency construction, disaster preparation and recovery support, humanitarian assistance and combat operations support.

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UTCN Toua Hang, NMCB 11, performs hourly mud viscosity, filtration, density, sand content, filter cake and pH tests, Camp Shelby, Miss., Aug. 6.


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