By BUCN Rosalind Bonenberger, NMCB 11 Public Affairs
NMCB 11 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 complete truss work on a SWA hut as part of a joint project supporting airfield operations at a CENTCOM forward operating site. Photos by BUCN Rosalind Bonenberger
Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 Detachment Bahrain teamed up with Marines to construct six Southwest Asia (SWA) huts at a Central Command (CENTCOM) forward operating site in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 22-April 1.
The flight area of the CENTCOM forward operating site needed expanded facilities to support around-the-clock preparations for air combat sorties supporting Inherent Resolve, the U.S. military effort against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. Required improvements included a pilot ready room, a preventive maintenance repair facility and ordnance ready point for the aircraft ammunition (bombs and missiles).
To meet this need, Seabees and Marines constructed six SWA huts and adaptable 16-foot by 32-foot wood-framed “hooches” widely used by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. The SWA huts were prefabricated at the public works builder shop to maximize efficiency and minimize impact to flight operations.
Seabees then used heavy equipment to line-haul the trusses and wall framing to the flight line. Engineering Aide Constructionman Kerrick Downes, NMCB 11, worked with the flight line master plan to identify the best location for the proposed facilities.
For Seabees, SWA hut construction is a routine project. However, most of the construction was tasked to Marines assigned to a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF).
The majority of the Marines had little to no experience with carpentry or construction. Builder 3rd Class Patrick Hughey, Builder Constructionman Evelyn Christie and Builder Constructionman Rosalind Bonenberger provided instruction, oversight and technical on-the-job training to the Marines throughout construction and erection of the facilities.
The SPMAGTF developed a multitude of new skills, while junior Seabees had the opportunity to lead Marines as project supervisors and project safety managers. The joint construction project fostered camaraderie and understanding between the branches of service.
NMCB 11 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 erect exterior walls for the first SWA hut as part of a joint project supporting airfield operations at a CENTCOM forward operating site.
“Before this project I hadn’t considered why we have such a sense of urgency in constructing what seemed like everyday facilities to us,” said Builder Constructionman 3rd Class Patrick Hughey, NMCB 11. “After working with the Marines and observing their day-to-day operations on the flight line, I really understood how our projects fit into the larger operational picture. We may just see them as more SWA huts, but to someone else they’re a mission-essential operational hub.”
Both branches of service gained experience and knowledge that will benefit future operations and continued building on the longstanding relationship between Seabees and Marines.
“The SWA huts really benefited my Marines by giving them an opportunity to learn construction
procedures for structures that the Marines generally have no experience in building,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Schrepfer, SPMAGTF. “This project provided them with key carpentry skills that they can carry on to their next task, benefitting their operational components as well as their own personal careers.”
The construction was completed on a tight schedule and the new SWA huts have significantly increased airfield response time by providing new facilities to support combat flight operations.
NMCB 11 is a Naval Construction Force battalion specializing in contingency construction, disaster response and humanitarian assistance. The battalion’s homeport is in Gulfport, Miss.
NMCB 11 is currently forward deployed to multiple locations in support of U.S. Africa Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command areas of responsibility.
NMCB 11 Seabees and Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 work in tandem to erect multiple SWA huts as part of a joint project supporting airfield operations at a CENTCOM forward operating site.