Powering Diego Garcia

Story by MCSN Carlos Hopper, U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia

Sailors and civilians stationed at Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Far East Public Works Department (PWD) provide a wide-range of shore facilities management.

Utilitiesman 1st class Khamla Southaphanh, assigned to Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Far East Public Works Department (PWD) Detachment Diego Garcia, uses an ultrameter to test the pH of the water at the water treatment facility on Diego Garcia Dec. 23. (Photo by MCSN Carlos Hopper)

Based out of Yokosuka, Japan, NAVFAC Far East has detachments at multiple locations around the Pacific, from Japan to Singapore and much further south to the coral atoll of Diego Garcia. At U.S. Navy Support Facility (NSF) Diego Garcia, PWD handles operations maintenance, construction, base operations, support services and environmental management.

PWD also provides the installation with products and services, and the company Kellog, Brown & Root (KBR) currently has the Base Operating Support Contract, providing all the services for the base.

“Here on Diego Garcia, all the services and majority of products [projects] are completed by the contractor,” said Senior Chief Constructionman Paul Pekinas. “We have to make sure that the most critical products and services are prioritized and completed in a timely manner.”

Pekinas said that one of the priorities are power outages which can significantly degrade their operations, so they resolve those as soon as possible.

PWD is made up of four divisions. The Facilities Management Division (FMD), which serves as the point of work generation installation and provides management for real property. This includes land, facilities and utilities. The Facilities Engineering and Acquisition Division (FEAD) provides engineering and acquisition expertise to address facility and service related requirements. This expertise includes engineering design, consultation, statement of work development, contract award and project management. The production division, which all enlisted personnel are assigned to, is responsible for delivering performance work products and services with in-house workforces.Lastly, the Environmental Division (EV) is responsible for managing the installation EV program including compliance, services, planning and conservation. It is responsible for EV management, system implementation and assessments.

Seabees from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Far East Public Works Department (PWD) Detachment Diego Garcia pose for a photo Dec. 20. (Photo by MCSN Carlos Hopper)

The Installation Environmental Programs Director (IEPD) reports directly to the public works officer. The IEPD has both NAVFAC and CNIC responsibilities and reports directly to the Installation Commanding Officer (ICO) on EV issues posing a significant risk.

A typical work day at PWD consists of going over calendar schedules (meetings, reports due, etc.), Performance Assessment Representatives (PAR) going around the base and doing assignments, and as Pekinas mentioned, a lot of meetings.

“We keep the lights on and make sure the contractors are doing their jobs,” said Construction Electrician 1st Class Darwin Garza. “We also support submarines when they come in with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.”

Garza said that that in the morning they do performance assessment worksheets for each power plant, and in the afternoon they conduct spot check on projects that are in progress around the island.

Pekinas said that his life is made easy having seasoned Sailors. The E6 and below have multiple collateral duties within the department. He said that out of the 15 billets required, he has eight that are currently filled, which is very challenging, but he and his Sailors handle that challenge head on.

“As it should, the Navy prioritizes operational commands for Fit and Fill, which often results in under manning the shore, including PWDs,” said Cmdr. Bob Stiles, PWD Public Works Officer. “That’s especially hard at a location like Diego Garcia, where overseas screening or family situations limit otherwise qualified Sailors. As a result, we’re currently manned to 53% of our enlisted billets. But those 53% are some of the most talented and dedicated Sailors I’ve had the pleasure to serve with.”

Stiles said that leading PWD is fundamentally different from leading a Seabee battalion, but both require strong technical knowledge and mission focus.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to serve with PWD Diego Garcia. I’m incredibly proud of the men and women, Americans and Filipinos, in or out of uniform, the family away from family, who keep this island running every day. Without a doubt, we have one of the best PWDs in the world.”


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