Seabees Conduct ADR Training to Challenge 21st Century Threats

By MCCS (SCW/SW) Jeffrey Pierce, NCG 2 Public Affairs

NMCB 11 Conducts ADR Exercise

Equipment Operator Constructionman Blake Farnsworth, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11, uses a front end loader with a sweeper attachment to clear debris from a runway during an airfield damage and repair (ADR) exercise, May 5. The Seabees are working with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 to develop new tactics, techniques and procedures to improve the way they conduct ADR. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication 1st Class David Kolmel/160505-N-IT566-295)

Since its inception during the early days of World War II, Airfield Damage Repair (ADR) has been one of the Seabees’ core competencies. During the Vietnam War, the ability to keep runways operational to launch and recover aircraft was tested like never before.

In the early 1990s, during the Gulf War’s Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and after 9/11 during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, the United States and its allies enjoyed nearly complete air superiority. Hence, the need for these ADR skills was not tested as it had been in previous conflicts.

Fast forward to the present day. The United States faces potential threats around the globe where Seabees may be called upon once again to provide ADR services for our nation’s and allies’ expeditionary forces. For this reason there has been a renewed focus on their ADR capabilities.

Most recently, an ADR exercise conducted by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 2was held at Camp Shelby, Mississippi in early May. This was a joint Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) exercise with an emphasis on command and control (C2) integration along with experimenting with new techniques and technologies.

NMCB 11 Conducts ADR Exercise

Equipment Operator Constructionman Richard Ricardo, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11, gives hand signals to the driver of a skid steer during a airfield damage and repair (ADR) exercise, May 4. The Seabees are working with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 to develop new tactics, techniques and procedures to improve the way they conduct ADR. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication 1st Class David Kolmel/160504-N-IT566-153)

According to Chief Warrant Officer Alfred Brown, attached to the Navy Expeditionary Warfighting Development Center located aboard Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the threats we face today have changed significantly since World War II and we have to change the way we conduct our ADR missions to meet these threats.

“The threat/conflict environment has definitely changed since WWII. With technology on the forefront, it gives the adversary the ability to conduct integrated attacks across the spectrum of global challenges,” Brown said. “The new requirement for ADR will employ a joint service concept with integration from engineering and explosive ordnance disposal units, regardless of service. Tasking will include opening to sustaining airfields, and responding to a full range of threats, from air attacks consisting of rockets and/or missiles, just to name a few.”

According to Frank Luster, NECC’s senior analyst for Emerging Threats and Capabilities, one of the main objectives of the exercise was to explore and refine the command and control arrangements between Seabee and EOD units in support of ADR operations.

“The planning and coordination that occurred prior to the exercise was the critical factor that led to the success of the C2 integration. Unit leaders were tasked to clear the runway of unexploded ordnance and to identify runway damage within a certain time limit,” Luster said. “The resulting collaboration between both units produced some novel approaches using commercial unmanned aerial systems to generate imagery products that could decrease the time required to accomplish this task. Other technologies included equipment and material that could further reduce the times for crater and spall repair.”

NMCB 11 Conducts ADR Exercise

Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 use a walk behind concrete saw to cut around a small crater during an airfield damage and repair (ADR) exercise, May 4. The Seabees are working with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 to develop new tactics, techniques and procedures to improve the way they conduct ADR. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication 1st Class David Kolmel/160504-N-IT566-230)

With the implementation of these new technologies and techniques, new equipment may be required in the future.

“The requirement to conduct actual repairs to a concrete and asphalt runway entails the use of equipment that is specifically designed for the task, as well as repair material that can withstand the weight and repetitive landing from military aircraft,” Luster said.

During the ADR exercise, Maj. Gen. Christopher Owens, Director of Expeditionary Warfare Division, OPNAV N95, traveled to Camp Shelby to get a better understanding of the Seabees’ ADR capability and their future needs.

Capt. Paul Odenthal, commander, Naval Construction Group 2, met up with Owens at Camp Shelby and discussed the significance of the ADR capability.

“It’s important for me to see this to ensure there is funding available so the Seabees have the equipment and manning they need,” Owens said. We’re trying to keep the Seabees ready.”

According to Owens, having the ADR capability might have an added benefit – deterrence.

“This ability also creates a problem set for the enemy. How long will they be willing to continue to attack our airfields knowing we have this capability?”

“This is cutting edge and we have to be able to do this. Our expeditionary forces, the Marines, the Seabees need this capability,” Owens said. Great lessons are being learned out here during this training.”

This combined NMCB 11 and EODMU 2 exercise definitely helped NECC identify future ADR requirements.

NMCB 11 Conducts ADR Exercise

Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 spread flowable fill into a small crater during an airfield damage and repair (ADR) exercise, May 5. The Seabees are working with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 to develop new tactics, techniques and procedures to improve the way they conduct ADR. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication 1st Class David Kolmel/160505-N-IT566-420)