The U.S. Navy Seabee’s mission is primarily focused on building and construction projects designed to support combat operations for the Navy and other branches of the U.S. military – hence the motto “We Build, We Fight.”
Another saying (not necessarily related to the military) people may also be familiar with is “in order to make an omelet, sometimes you’ve got to break a few eggs” – in that same light for the Seabees, in order to build a road, sometimes you’ve got to blow up a few mountains.
Blowing up rocks is just one portion of what U.S. Navy’s Blasting and Quarry Technician School teaches Seabees, said Equipment Operator 1st Class Carmen Rivera.
Rivera, who currently works as the embark operations leading petty officer for 22nd Naval Construction Regiment, Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Mississippi, is the regiment’s subject matter expert for blasting and quarry operations.
Rivera originally immigrated to the United States from El Salvador with her parents when she was 14-years old, and in 2009 she decided to join the U.S. Navy because of the variety of opportunities she felt it offered.
“I joined because I wanted to do something exciting and different,” said Rivera, who initially joined as an equipment operator with the Seabees. “I just wanted to try something that is constantly changing and that I don’t get tired of.”
That’s one reason she decided to apply for her current position at the regiment and why she wanted to go to the C School for advanced training in quarry and blasting.
“Quarry and blasting school is a rare thing for EOs to go to,” said Rivera. “When I had applied for orders to come here, I saw that one of the requirements was blasting, and I knew I would have to go to the school for it, so I talked to the detailer about going to the school, and he said, ‘yeah, you can go.’”
So before coming to NCBC this August, Rivera attended the Blasting and Quarry Technician School from July 12 to August 28, 2018, to get her qualifications in blasting.
According to the Naval Education and Training Command website, the U.S. Navy Seabee’s formal Blasting and Quarry Technician School is located in the Mojave Desert region of China Lake, California, and teaches blasting techniques to U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force personnel in a joint-training environment.
The six-week-long course includes a classroom portion that teaches geology, quarry selection and layout, priming and loading, shot design, safety, planning and estimating, and material transportation, as well as an “in-the-field” portion that teaches students electric, non-electric and cap and fuse methods of blasting.
To save on costs and resources while in deployed locations, it’s sometimes easier for Seabees to use the materials on hand in the area of operation, in cooperation with local and national governments, rather than have those raw materials shipped in. So for example, in order to procure materials for building a road in austere locations, the Seabees will sometimes go to quarries to blast for rocks and other materials used to make roads and other structures. A quarry is a site where mineral products, stones and other materials can be extracted.
“EOs go to the blasting school so they can learn to get the material that we need for roads, for concrete and other structures so we can get this material for use in our construction projects,” said Rivera.
As much as she enjoys having the opportunity to blow things up, Rivera emphasized the detail and protective measures set in place in order to make extracting these materials as safe as possible.
“It’s a very safe, very controlled process,” said Rivera. “You can’t just jump steps or you can put your team at risk.”
Rivera summed up her experience in the Seabees noting the variety of jobs, in addition to blasting and quarry operations, that are available for people to pursue.
“I enjoy the diversity of jobs there are that we can do. I can do cranes, I can do dozers, I can do project management, I can do demolition… it’s just so broad in regards to the amount of jobs you can do.”