NMCB 4 and RCAF Accomplish Health Initiatives Across Cambodia

By CE3 (SCW) Kevin Bhirdo, NMCB4

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CE2 Daniel Neal (center), NMCB 4 Detail Cambodia, reviews a CMU block lay out with his Royal Cambodian Armed Forces counterparts as the crew begins a construction project at the Russey Srok Health Clinic Maternity Ward, Kep, Cambodia, Oct. 23. Photos by EO3 Alexander Balaoing

Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4 and Army engineers from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) completed several initiatives to improve sanitation conditions and maternity health care across Cambodia during the battalion’s 2014 PACOM deployment. The engineers from the RCAF’s Engineering Water and Supply Battalion assisted the Seabees in the construction of bathroom facilities and maternity wards for local communities, supporting U.S. Embassy initiatives and increasing the interoperability among the two engineering units.

The Seabees who comprise Civic Construction Action Detail (CCAD) Cambodia continue a legacy of Naval Construction Forces in Cambodia since 2012, and are specialists in expeditionary construction and humanitarian aid missions. Beginning in August, the Seabee crew worked independently to complete their first head facility in Sihanoukville. On Oct. 6, the Detail was joined by their Cambodian counterparts as they moved into two new projects in Cambodia’s Kep Province.

While the RCAF engineers have worked with previous battalions in Cambodia on similar projects, the experience was new to most members of the NMCB 4 crew. Language barriers and varied construction backgrounds presented potential roadblocks to their joint efforts. Despite these concerns enthusiasm was high the first day on site when crews exchanged warm handshakes and salutes.

Integration may have been slow at first, but the relationship quickly strengthened and flourished beyond expectations. Working side by side in all construction activities, Seabees and RCAF engineers developed a better understanding of their counterparts and developed unique solutions to challenges.

To overcome language barriers, the crews adopted their own method of communications through a mix of hand signals and small phrases; to overcome differences in methods and techniques, the crews established agreed-upon quality standards. When discrepancies arose, the crews worked together to plan a new way ahead. Through their daily interactions, whether working to place concrete or joking about weekend adventures, they have formed an unbreakable bond as they execute tasking with quality results.

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BUCN Tyler Mcferon (top), NMCB 4 Detail Cambodia, works with a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces counterpart to construct forms for the Russey Srok Health Clinic Maternity Ward project, Kep, Cambodia, Nov. 3. 

“I enjoy working with RCAF,” said Builder Constructionman Blake Stasik, project crew leader, NMCB 4. “Just because we speak different languages doesn’t mean we can’t communicate. If I point at something or if I’m working on something, they know how to help.”

The strengthening partnership has enabled both crews to share their unique techniques and methods. RCAF engineers have extensive experience with concrete masonry block and stucco application, and share their capabilities to the Seabees. Conversely, the Seabees have provided valuable insight into project management and formwork. The on-the-job instruction for each other is invaluable to expanding the skills of each crewmember and enhancing the ability of the two engineering units working together in future endeavors.

While integration has been built on the job site, it has extended to other activities as well. The RCAF engineers join the Seabees during morning physical training sessions, shouting cadences in both English and Khmer.

On the weekend, the Detail hosts the Cambodian engineers to barbecues and competitive sand volleyball matches, a sport popular in Cambodia. The RCAF even joined the Detail for their “over-the-hump” party to mark the deployment’s halfway point and celebrate joint accomplishments.

“It’s a pleasure to work with such a motivated, hardworking group and it goes without saying we would build by their side any day,” said Engineering Aide Constructionman Thomas Latimer, a crew member on the Russey Srok Health Center maternity ward.

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Seabees from NMCB 4 Detail Cambodia pose with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Army engineers at the Russey Srok Health Clinic Maternity Ward project, Kep, Cambodia, Nov. 10. NMCB 4 and the RCAF are working together to complete multiple projects throughout Cambodia in support of U.S. Embassy initiatives to improve sanitation conditions and maternity health care across the country.

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