Story by MC2 Sara Eshleman, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East
A team of seven Seabees, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 detachment Ivory Coast and deployed with Task Force 68, embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) in support of the ship’s Africa Partnership Station (APS) deployment to the Gulf of Guinea, July 2-August 8, 2019.
The detachment embarked for the deployment, which is comprised of more than 100 Sailors, U.S. Coast Guardsmen, U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets, civil service mariners, and international ship riders from Spain, Portugal, and Italy, has worked alongside African partners in Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal to provide assistance based on host-nation requests during previous APS exercise and engagements. Mission personnel traveling aboard Carson City include a small boat maintenance and repair team, a medical team, United States Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement personnel, and the U.S. Naval Forces Europe band, who have held performances for local communities.
“The Seabees were an idea we discussed in part of the planning to add capability to Carson City’s mission to West Africa nations,” said civilian mariner Capt. Jonathan Keffer, ship’s master of Carson City. “Previous vessels who have come here – the U.S. Coast Guard, Civilian Sealift Command’s USNS Spearhead, and other U.S. Navy vessels representing U.S. 6th Fleet – have all encountered significant challenges with obtaining [large quantities of] potable drinking water.”
Keffer said he talked at length with the planning committee on the key topic of water management and how to address his concerns. In response, the ship received two 4,600-gallon supplementary tanks in the mission bay for water storage in addition to the team of Seabees and their three modular Lightweight Water Purification Systems (LWPS), which were also set up in the mission bay. The Seabees operated nonstop in 12-hour shifts to fill the LWPS bladders and help keep the ship’s supply where it needed to be to provide sufficient levels of potable water for the crew.
“This mission will live and die on the use of water,” said civilian mariner Galen A. Gouzoulis, chief engineer of Carson City. “The interaction with the Seabee detachment and civilian mariner crew has been very smooth and professional. From the early outset of the deployment, we established a procedure and sequence of events to ensure quality, safety, and transfer of responsibility for replenishing water to the ship’s potable water tanks.”
The LWPS is traditionally a land-based system designed to provide mobile sites and disaster relief areas with potable water. The Seabees spent two months in training to translate the LWPS to shipboard performance prior to the deployment to ensure mission success.
“It’s an exciting adventure,” said Construction Electrician 1st Class James Madison. “Each day on deployment has different challenges. We get to write the playbook for when we need to do it again to accomplish the mission.”
The LWPS has the ability to make potable water within 12 nautical miles from the coastline due to its unique mission set, unlike the ship’s two reverse osmosis (RO) systems that require a greater distance from the coast to create potable water. Together, the LWPS and ROs are able to meet the needs of the combined civilian mariner and military detachment, who consume between 2,000-3,000 gallons of water daily. This has led to enough additional water to prevent strict water management restrictions and maintain some luxuries aboard, such as a greater variety of food, longer showers, and laundry services.
“The difference has been night and day,” said Gouzoulis about working with the Seabees and having the LWPS on board for the deployment. “This mission deployment proved the concept of the LWPS to extend the mission capability of this platform and its adaptability to remain longer on station if mission requirements change.”
The team of seven has spent the deployment working through the many new challenges faced with bringing a new system aboard and has been setting the precedence for future embarkations of LWPS aboard naval vessels.
“We’re all very sound-minded when it comes to the equipment that we’re working with,” said Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Ty Reynolds. “If ever there is an issue, and there is only one person down there, that one person can troubleshoot. We’ve all been working together for about two months now, and we get along very well. We haven’t had any issues. We push each other every day to be more knowledgeable and better with the system, so I would say all members of our current team are the best they can be.”
APS is U.S. Naval Forces Africa’s flagship maritime security cooperation program focusing on maritime safety and security through increased maritime awareness, response capabilities, and infrastructure. It consists of the various exercises and operations conducted by U.S., European, and African partners and allies throughout the U.S. Africa Command area of operations.
Carson City is deployed to the Gulf of Guinea to demonstrate progress through partnerships and U.S. commitment to West African countries through small boat maintenance assistance, maritime law enforcement engagement, and medical and community relations outreach.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.