Members of NMCB 11 Continue the Seabee Legacy on Tinian

Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Shaffer and Petty Officer 3rd Class Eckert, NMCB 11 DET Guam

Tinian Island Siezure Exercise

Petty Officer 3rd Class John Webb, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, prepares his M-240B Light Machine Gun (LMG) to act as the opposing force for an island seizure drill conducted by Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines during Exercise Valiant Shield 2016 in Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Sept. 20. Valiant Shield is a biennial, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps exercise held in Guam, focusing on real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace. (Photo by PO1 Benjamin A. Lewis/160920-N-TR141-114)

NORTH FIELD, Tinian. – Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 Detail Tinian provided site clearing for radar and communications sites, camp setup and operation, airfield clearing and assessment of historic North Field runways, and provided logistics support to Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 18, August 26th – October 2nd.  

Seabees deployed from Camp Covington, Guam in August 2016 to Tinian for a six-week field exercise in support of MACG-18 as part of Valiant Shield 2016 (VS-16).

Upon arriving at North Field, the Seabees and Marines worked together to clear an overgrown taxiway and establish the Logistic Support Area (LSA), a 55,000 square foot tent camp complete with berthing, dining, shower, laundry, and medical facilities for 235 Seabees and Marines.

As part of VS-16, all water being used by the Seabees and Marines was produced using the Seabees’ Lightweight Water Purification System (LWPS), and getting these systems up and running to provide drinking, cooking, and hygiene water to camp was a top priority. As the Seabees discovered, setting up the system was a physically demanding task.

“The system was erected by hand and involved excessive lifting, carrying, and the relocating of various pressure pumps and filters,” Petty Officer Third Class Crystal Trevino pointed out. Petty Officer Trevino was one of the Lead LWPS Operators. “Staying fit, for evolutions such as this one, allows us to (setup of the LWPS) in just one day without the use of other equipment.”

During VS-16, DET Tinian Seabees produced over 156,000 gallons of water, providing all potable and non-potable water for consumption, food preparation, hygiene, medical requirements, equipment operation and maintenance, as well as showers and laundry. For troops used to more austere field conditions, shower and laundry facilities were a welcome treat.

“Absolutely, I believe that having showers, laundry, and other facilities is a morale boost,” laughed Marine Sgt. Austin Janutol, assigned to III Marine Expeditionary Force. “I definitely enjoy being able to go and take a shower and smell good. After seven years in the infantry, you have to understand, this is a luxury. ”

Once the LSA and LWPS were established, 40,000 square feet of jungle had to be cleared to make space for a radar and communications site. Environmental restrictions in the area required the clearing to be completed by hand, and with a daytime temperature of 87°F with 95% humidity, it was grueling work. Adding to the challenge was a tight timeline: to keep on schedule and avoid delaying the exercise involving approximately 18,000 personnel, the clearing had to be completed in 7 days.

“Motivation was a key element which allowed the job to get done without compromise,” said Petty Officer First Class Lindsey Pfallen, project supervisor for the clearing effort. “Highly motivated people make for higher efficiency and more attention to detail.”

Petty Officer Pfallen’s motivated and efficient team of 28 Seabees and Marines safely completed the clearing in just four days.

After clearing the radar site, the Seabees turned their attention to clearing and assessing the conditions of the historic North Field runways, originally built by Seabees during World War Two. The members of DET Tinian made the most of the opportunity by researching the island’s history and visiting many of its historic sites, and were proud to carry on Tinian’s Seabee legacy.

“The performance and pride shines on the small camp, especially because of its historically significant location,” said Petty Officer First Class Matthew Robison, Camp Maintenance Supervisor. “It has been 70 plus years, and the original Seabee construction still stands.”

Valiant Shield is a biennial, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps exercise held in Guam, focusing on real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace.

During the final week of the exercise, the Seabees acted as the opposing force during an island seizure completed by 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines.


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