Story by BUCN Lasherona Dykes and MC2 Michael Lopez, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 Public Affairs
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 and Marines assigned to 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted a joint bridge exercise on board Marine Corps Base Camp Bendleton, Calif., Jan. 13-17.
The 20 Seabees partnered with 32 Marines for the week-long exercise to construct a five-bay Improved Ribbon Bridge (IRB) and an eight-bay double story and six-bay single story Medium Girder Bridge (MGB) to demonstrate NMCB capabilities and improve interoperability with their Marine counterparts.
“The overall purpose was for our Seabees to learn what the Marines have to offer in a joint operational environment and vice versa to improve Navy and Marine Corps bridging operations for major combat operations response,” said Lt. j.g. Aaron Ignacio, NMCB-3’s Bridge Detachment officer-in-charge.
The first event consisted of constructing an IRB, which is a floating bridge system designed to move large equipment across water. The IRB system comes in separate pieces, called “bays,” that can be connected to create a continuous-span bridge, or joined together to create a “raft”. The rafts can be propelled by bridge erection boats and are used extensively to move tanks and large loads across bodies of fresh water.
The second even consisted of constructing two MGBs, which are a key piece of military bridging capabilities. They are lightweight, easily transportable, constructed steel bridges used to traverse land gaps. Their speed of erection by a small group of Seabees paired with very little maintenance requirements once erected are defining characteristics.
The exercise used a mix of classroom and practical application to share skills and increase effectiveness in a joint environment. While the IRB portion was Marine led, the two groups took turns leading MGB builds.
“Even though we use similar construction methods, it was apparent that the Marines use a different approach,” said Ignacio. “7th ESB has an entire bridging platoon that is highly-skilled in building IRBs and MGBs, whereas our Seabees are in this special bridge detachment while also belonging to different company platoons, so it was great for our Seabees to get to work with another organization and see how they complete the task to boost our readiness.”
Builder 2nd Class Garrett Burke, assigned to NMCB-3, served as a bridge master during the exercise and said that the skills exchange was a welcomed challenge for him.
“It was definitely a learning experience for us when it came to the IRB because it’s something that we don’t have in our table of allowance, but the Marine Corps uses it, and we never know if we may end up using it in the future in a joint environment or on our own,” said Burke. “Overall, it was a cool experience to be able to set up a floating bridge and move it around with boats and knowing that it’s capable of transporting large equipment.”
Burke found that building the MGBs was a much more cohesive experience as both groups had a high level of familiarity with the skill.
“Going into it, both parties thought that we were going to be doing a lot of teaching,” said Burke. “But after we got going we realized that they’re just like us and we do things very similarly, so it ended up resulting in a really easy evolution and I think further showed that Seabees and Marines can easily work together to accomplish the same mission.”
7th ESB is based at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California and provides general engineering support of an expeditionary nature to the Marine Expeditionary Force, to include mobility, counter mobility and survivability enhancements, explosive ordnance disposal, and general supply support to include the handling, storage and distribution of bulk water and fuel.
NMCB-3 is home-ported in Port Hueneme, California. Seabees are the expeditionary engineering and construction experts of the naval service. They provide task-tailored, adaptable and combat-ready engineering and construction forces that deploy to support global Navy objectives.
For more information about Seabees and NMCB-3, visit http://seabeemagazine.navylive.dodlive.mil or https://www.facebook.com/NMCB3/