Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hurley, NMCB 11 CCAD Marshall Islands
Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Dawson, top, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Burris assigned to NMCB 11 unload materials for a project on the island of Ebeye Oct. 17, 2016. They are currently deployed with Construction Civic Action Detail Marshall Islands (CCAD MHL), who are in the region providing humanitarian support, public infrastructure improvements, and apprenticeship training. (Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hurley/161017-N-XK413-002)
KWAJALEIN ATOLL, Marshall Islands — U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, with Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD) Marshall Islands, are halfway complete with a 6-month deployment to the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
For the first part of the deployment, the detachment has been engrossed in planning and estimating various humanitarian assistance projects throughout this island nation, including the final details of a kindergarten they will be building on the island of Ebeye. In addition, they planned a project on Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, to build pig pens for educational programs, as well as agriculture and hygiene improvements to the local infrastructure.
Seabees began hands-on work by renovating a local Ebeye Health Clinic. Seabees replaced a deck that was rotted out, making wheelchair access possible. Additionally, they replaced bathroom fixtures to include new toilets, shower units and sinks, which enabled the upgraded facility to be used as a command and control center for an upcoming island-wide 16,000 person tuberculosis screening. The Marshall Islands suffers greatly from this disease, with the 3rd highest incidence in the world.
In December, a “mini-Det” of 8 personnel will fly to the island capital of Majuro to build a fence around a school in the islet of Ejit. Ejit is the location where many islanders who suffered radioactive fallout from US nuclear testing in the 1940’s were relocated. The project, which will improve the school’s safety, has backing from the US Embassy, and will be a great improvement in the island’s public infrastructure. “Thank God’s will for this fence project,” enthused Ejit principal Connie Joel, who has been instrumental in working with US Embassy officials in initiating this project.
When the Seabees are not actively involved in projects, they are spending time volunteering for the community of Kwajalein and Ebeye. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tutoring has been a huge success, with an average of at least 25 high school students on Ebeye in attendance. The Seabees have also been heavily involved with the Kwajalein High School Mentorship program, giving the students a peek into military life, and teaching leadership skills for growth as they mature into adulthood. “You don’t really see how far you’ve come, or what you take for granted as positives in the military, until you’re teaching them to high schoolers,” said Petty Officer Brandon Grant, a weekly volunteer.
Lastly, having an earnest desire to integrate themselves into their host community, the Seabees have been making Christmas trees out of used pallets for the residents of Kwajalein to decorate and display for Christmas festivities. Confined to a small island, it is hard for these residents to acquire Christmas trees, so this is a huge morale boost for Kwajalein residents.
The “Can Do” spirit of the Seabees remains high, as they provide quality construction and quality of life improvements here in the Marshall Islands. The Seabees inspire the youth on the islands of Kwajalein and Ebeye to explore opportunities in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, as well as the United States of America.
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 is a vital component of the U.S. Maritime Strategy. They offer deployable battalions capable of providing contingency construction, disaster preparation and recovery support, humanitarian assistance, and combat operations support.