Cmdr. Jennifer Donahue (far right), commanding officer, NMCB 25, salutes Col. Diana Holland, commander, 130th Engineer Brigade, during a transfer of authority ceremony between NMCB 28 and NMCB 25, Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, April 15. Photo by MC1 Patrick Gordon
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 28 officially welcomed NMCB 25 as the new Seabee battalion during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, April 15. NMCB 25’s arrival in country begins what is expected to be the final Seabee mission in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
The ceremony marked the official departure of NMCB 28, Task Force Coda, and its nearly eight-month mission in Afghanistan. During the ceremony, U.S. Army Col. Diana Holland, commander, 130th Engineer Brigade, Task Force Sapper, commented on the wide array of missions and responsibilities NMCB 28 undertook during its deployment.
“It has been such a gratifying experience to watch Task Force Coda excel in this environment,” said Holland. “You have done it all. Construction, deconstruction, train, advise and assist, well-drilling, personnel protection, convoy movements, and some or all of those tasks across just about every Regional Command. Everything you touched turned into success. Every commander with whom you came into contact, wanted you back. I know…because I heard from many of them as you departed their respective battle space. They loved ‘their’ Seabees. Quite a tribute to your professionalism and dedication.”
Holland also mentioned the challenges faced by NMCB 28, which it overcame with great success. Challenges such as the retrograde from Camp Leatherneck and Kandahar Airfield, moving to Camp Phoenix mid-deployment, having the battalion split, and be re-missioned from construction and de-construction to training and advising the newly fielded Afghan National Engineer Brigade (NEB). Despite these obstacles, she said, NMCB 28 excelled in each mission it was presented with.
“No unit has undergone such drastic alterations in their vision of a deployment,” said Holland. “Yet, though facing the most challenging experiences of all of our battalions, I would suggest that NMCB 28 leaves the most enduring legacy of them all. You led the brigade’s decisive operation. You took something, from almost nothing. You built relationships with Afghan soldiers that will never be forgotten, by either party. No matter what happens here after Coalition Forces depart, the NEB will have had a fighting chance because of the Seabees.”
CMC Corey A. Cain (left), NMCB 28, and CMC Michael Helgeson, NMCB 25, transition the Battalion Equipment Evaluation Program plaque from “28” to “25” during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, April 15. Photo by MC1 Patrick Gordon
Cmdr. Curtis Smith, commanding officer, NMCB 28, Task Force Coda, expanded on the spirit of cooperation that surrounded the Seabees’ mission in Afghanistan, and its effect on those still working there.
“Early in the deployment I could think of no finer finish than for the men and women of Task Force Coda to successfully accomplish our mission, to celebrate our achievements, and to make our families proud of the way we conduct ourselves over the course of our deployment,” said Smith. “Little did I know that there would be multiple missions that we could celebrate not only amongst ourselves, but with our Afghan counterparts as well as our Turkish and Bulgarian partners.
“A defining moment for me was when I visited Camp Ghazi and saw a Seabee patch on an [Afghan National Army] soldier’s uniform,” he said. “He had the grin of a young petty officer who had just earned a warfare device or had just been promoted; he was proud – he was proud to have been a part of the Seabees.”
After Smith officially transferred authority to Cmdr. Jennifer Donahue, commanding officer, NMCB 25, Task Force Ultimus, she recognized the unique nature of the incoming battalion’s mission and the opportunities it presents.
“The challenge that lies in front of us will not be an easy one,” said Donahue. “We will not be executing the traditional Seabee mission like the ones we have deployed before to fulfill. But I truly believe that the mission we have been handed is more profound and far reaching than any we have undertaken before. Today, we undertake a new mission. We are here to advise Afghanistan’s National Engineer Brigade to develop their own end state.”
Donahue continued, “Each one of you is now an Ambassador. Our jobs are to teach, to advise, to train. We will not be judged on how many miles we convoy or how many man days of construction we execute. Our mission is to help prepare the NEB and [Afghan National Army] develop and become sustainable so that we can leave Afghanistan a better place than where we started.
“The U.S. is leaving at the end of the year,” she said. “Our legacy will not be a 1,200-man forward operating base, but rather we will be a part of preparing a fully capable brigade of engineers, able to take on the feats Afghanistan asks of it for many years to come. I’m proud to serve with each and every one of you.”