Story by MC1 Stephane Belcher, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5
The Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 completed a mock Communications Exercise (COMMEX) and Command Post Exercise (CPX) onboard Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California Oct. 9.
COMMEX and CPX are simulated to assess the battalion’s ability to operate command and control (C2) through the use of their communications assets. This includes practicing communications to higher, adjacent, and supporting commands.
“This is critical when we’re in a task tailored mission, and we’re possibly working in the expeditionary side or with Marine Corps elements,” said Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Gregory Johnson, NMCB-5’s communications departmental leading chief petty officer. “We need to be able to communicate using correct circuit discipline, and fleet standards, so that we can effectively communicate across to those adjacent elements.
“Communications is a perishable skill, and if you don’t use it, you lose it. Whether it’s the setup of the actual equipment or the circuit discipline and the phraseology used on the nets. All those things perish with time.”
During the exercises, the Seabees have their skills tested with setting up tents, generators, barriers, and communication equipment as efficiently and effectively as possible. This practical training helps refresh their skills to sustain a competitive edge. There are also communication drills between the command post and C2.
“These skills are very critical for C2,” said Ensign Corey Kite, NMCB-5’s Communications Officer. “The quicker we know we have to jump to a new site, the quicker we can get our communications assets up and running, the better we are, and the more efficient we are in a field environment.”
These exercises were mostly for the watchstanders and getting them proficient on the watches. The battalion has recently had new personnel check into the command. This gave them the initial foundation of watchstander knowledge and how a battalion really runs in a field exercise. They went through the watch fundamentals in a training environment and analyzed and processed the information.
“This is kind of just dipping our toes in the water,” said Kite. “It’s our first exercise in a while. We’re just getting a benchmark of where we’re at, and kind of identifying our shortfalls and mitigating those in preparation for CPX One.”
Both exercises are routine evolutions the Seabees undergo, but this experience was slightly altered. Due to COVID-19, the Seabees took up extra measures to mitigate the threat of the virus. They upheld social distancing requirements, wore masks, and sanitized the equipment between watches, all while maintaining efficient communications.
The COVID-19 pandemic extended the battalion’s deployment earlier in the year, so NMCB-5’s Seabees had the foresight to adjust the training environment and maintain readiness while upholding force health protection requirements.
NMCB-5 is homeported in Port Hueneme, California. During the homeport phase, the Seabees train on high-quality construction, expeditionary logistics, and combat operations to support U.S. and partner nations and deter aggression.