By Lt. Kevin Keenaghan, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 27
Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 27, experienced a different kind of Thanksgiving Nov. 22 while deployed to Huaytara, Peru, in support of the U.S. Southern Command's Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative.
The Seabees are part of a subject matter expert exchange with a newly formed Peruvian military engineer group, providing supervision and support during the construction of a 2,200 square foot auditorium for the town.
Unfamiliar with the history of the U.S. holiday and understanding that construction efforts on the auditorium were getting close to completion, the Peruvian engineers treated Thursday like any other workday. Rather than taking it for rest, relaxation, and reflection, the Seabees instead chose to join their Peruvian counterparts and put in a 12-hour workday right alongside them.
"We did not want to send a bad message to the Peruvians," said Chief Builder Glenn Kohles, officer-in-charge of the Seabees in Peru. "This close to the end of the project, if they're working then we're working."
In addition to their work on the auditorium, the Seabees also chose to volunteer much of their lunchtime to help out the town's hospital. Earlier in the morning, a car had crashed into the gate in front of the hospital and broke the top hinge of the gate. Kohles and Construction Electrician 1st Class Daniel Johnson spent two hours at the facility helping to weld a replacement hinge in order to make the gate operational again.
"We appreciate the hard work and dedication of all of our deployed Sailors who are spending this holiday away from their families and loved ones," said Rear Adm. Sinclair M. Harris, commander of U.S. Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet.
"The selfless decision to continue working during the Thanksgiving holiday is a great demonstration of solidarity with our South American partners and is in keeping with the traditional 'can do' spirit of the Seabees," Harris said.
Spending the holiday in a remote Peruvian town did afford the Seabees a unique opportunity for some cultural enrichment. Although they weren't able to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, they did share a somewhat unconventional Thanksgiving meal with their new Peruvian friends.
"We had some soup with chicken feet in it," explained Kohles. "It was rough," he added, with a grin.
The Seabees in Peru are part of a larger group of Navy Reservists from NMCB 27 based out of Chicopee, Mass., who were recalled to active duty in July and deployed throughout South and Central America in support of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet peacekeeping, multinational partnership, and humanitarian assistance missions.
COMUSNAVSO/COMFOURTHFLT supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.