Story by MCC Matthew White, Commander Task Force 75
Seabees and Sailors assigned to Task Force 75.5 achieved engineering initial operating capability (IOC) of a 150-bed Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF) as part of the Department of Defense’s fight against COVID-19 on board Naval Base Guam, April 25.
Reaching engineering IOC means the EMF is structurally ready to perform its core medical care mission when the medical staff arrives. Construction will continue until achieving full operating capability, which means the EMF is fully constructed and able to execute all of its designed tasks independent from external support.
“The Seabees have been working hard through all the adversities we’ve had out here to get this up and running as soon as possible,” said Lt. Matthew Harms, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 Det. Guam operations officer, a native of Omaha, Nebraska. “[They’re] working through the changing weather conditions–it rains two or three times a day and is very hot and humid the rest of the time–on top of learning a brand new tent system that most of our guys haven’t seen before. But the team learned quickly and hasn’t let anything get in the way of completing the EMF on time. These guys are awesome.”
More than 130 Seabees are working on the EMF site, which began April 11, with grading of the approximately five-acre site where the medical facility is built. Precise leveling and compaction of the ground was vital due to the sensitive medical equipment used in the EMF.
“We started by knocking the ground down to a less than two-percent slope and then built it back up, while compacting the ground to make sure it was flat and stable for the facility,” said Harms.
Following ground preparation, the team of Seabees began construction of EMF infrastructure, April 20.
“The combined crew of [NMCB] 1 and [NMCB] 5 started going through and building up the tents into ten different wings that will make up the medical core,” Harms said. “There are also support sites that are being built up for the EMF including fuel and water farms, a troop berthing and hygiene area, and a galley. All of those are part of the Expeditionary Medical Facility and are required to support the approximately 400 medical and support personnel that are coming in.”
The Seabees integrated into a cohesive unit to build the EMF with technical guidance provided by Sailors from the Expeditionary Medical Facility Assist Team (EMFAT) from Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command (NEMSCOM) and Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute (NEMTI).
“We have a lot of really motivated Seabees, and the team from NEMTI, working for Guam and our brothers and sisters on the USS Theodore Roosevelt,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Matthew Petree, quality control officer assigned to NEMTI. “We build the EMF three or four times a year as training and we’re happy to be able to come to Guam and put our experience to good use.”
The EMF is a self contained medical care facility, enabling medical professionals to provide expanded medical capabilities and will enable forces to be postured to support Guam and the region if a Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission is requested.
“It’s a Role 3 [medical treatment facility] so you’re going to have all the capabilities of a hospital. There are operating rooms, acute care wings, essential sterilization capabilities, a medical lab and a pharmacy,” Petree said. “It’s really going to be able to do everything you need.”
The Seabees building the EMF are proud to contribute to the DoD’s COVID-19 response in Guam.
“I think [building the EMF] is amazing. COVID is all around the world and if this can save anyone’s life I’m excited to be able to help,” said Steelworker 3rd Class Mark Austinweldon, assigned to NMCB 1.
Task Group 75.5 is led by 30th Naval Construction Regiment (30NCR) and is made up of personnel assigned to multiple units, including NMCB 1, NMCB 5, Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303, NEMTI and NEMSCOM.
As Commander Task Group 75.5, 30NCR provides command and control over all Naval Construction Force units in the 7th Fleet area of operations. 30NCR enables the real-time mobility of response for engineering units and other assigned forces to provide
expeditionary, general and limited combat engineer capability to respond to major combat operations and contingencies, conducts Theater Security Cooperation Plan operations, and executes Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HA/DR) and Civil-Military Operations within the Indo-Pacific.