Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Lopez, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 successfully completed a command sustainment exercise, May 4-22.
The exercise consisted of one construction project in support of Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) and two Seabee Technical Training (STT) modules.
The exercise was evaluated by NMCB-3’s internal quality assurance team, and is meant to ensure that the technical construction skills the Seabees have built and refined throughout their homeport remain sharp and ready to be quickly employed in the case of a contingency or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) response while deployed.
Working with crews on rotating shifts, the Seabees were able to complete their assigned projects while using face coverings, and enforcing social distancing to the maximum extent possible – following COVID-19 mitigation guidance to continue carrying out mission essential functions.
Speaking to the abnormal circumstances in which the exercise took place, Lt. Cmdr. Calvin Warren, from Aurora, Ill., NMCB-3’s training officer, said the pandemic imposed a challenge where the battalion must be focused on ensuring its ability to execute high quality construction and planning while protecting the health of the force.
Working in split “port” and “starboard” crews to minimize contact between Seabees added an additional challenge to the usual level of leadership interaction and oversight that is typical of traditional operations. With limited access to leadership, when problems arose on a project, Seabees were trusted to carry additional responsibility.
“We had these difficulties,” said Warren, “but they were overcome through robust communication at all levels of the command, and reliance on small unit leaders, particularly project supervisors and crew leaders, and clear published guidance for required personal protective equipment and social distancing behaviors to keep the teams and evaluators safe.”
The first project provided support to NBVC, Point Mugu by placing a 48-by-60-foot concrete pad with an aluminum perimeter fence that will host an EA-6B Prowler aircraft display at Point Mugu Missile Park outside of the base. The pad will showcase the addition of one of the many aircraft that have been tested at the base since World War II.
At the same time, teams of Seabees were working on STT modules for a concrete masonry wall and underground utilities. STT modules are in an outdoor facility where, as the name implies, battalion’s develop and train their technical constructions skills in areas such as concrete formwork, concrete finishing, masonry, utilities, carpentry, pre-engineered building fabrication, interior finishing, and steel fabrication.
The underground utilities module tested the Seabees’ ability to properly excavate trenches and install a storm drain catch basin, manhole, and pipes within certain specifications. While utilities and power distribution are the bread and butter of an NMCB’s Bravo Company, the module also required the help of the Alfa Company crane crew to skillfully move the heavy components into tight trenches.
The concrete masonry module trains Seabees on building walls with proper placement of concrete masonry unit block (CMU) with steel reinforcement and mortar filled cores. The Seabees built two CMU foundations and one waste enclosure. NMCB-3 Seabees recently used this skill to build residential waste enclosures on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan during a 2018-2019 deployment.
Seabees assigned to the quality assurance staff evaluated the exercise and are responsible for making sure that the administrative requirements for each project are met. When the battalion is deployed, these personnel will periodically travel to each of the battalion’s construction sites to carry out this role.
“We’ve been at the project sites daily during this exercise and are primarily focused on making sure that the construction is in line with project’s approved plans and building specifications,” said Builder 1st Class Michael Voicechovski, from Lincoln Park, N.J. “This is basically training for projects we’ll complete on deployment and helps us ensure we consistently deliver quality construction products.”
Sustainment exercises such as this one are completed during a unit’s sustainment phase of their optimized fleet readiness training program (OFRTP). OFRTPs are designed to ensure units are trained and certified at progressive levels of capability both at the individual and unit level in order to be ready and certified to execute all missions within their capability areas. For NMCB-3, this means providing high quality construction teams capable of responding to major combat operations and HA/DR operations.
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.