Produced by MC2 Ignacio Perez, Defense Media Activity
It's four in the morning at Camp Shelby, Miss., and Builder Constructionman Richard Starcher wakes up to beeps from his watch. He rubs his tired eyes and glances over at his gear.
At this point, his boots are covered in layers of red mud, his flak jacket is stained with salt rings and his uniform smells of diesel fuel, gun powder and insect repellent. As he rustles out of his tent to get dressed, other dark figures emerge from their tents to do the same.
Walking over to the convoy of armored vehicles that line the edge of camp, the dark figures begin to turn into familiar faces, faces that he had only seen in passing before, but now play an important role in his life within the battalion.
"When we first got here everybody was on each other's nerves for the first three days, and then it started setting in - the more we worked together the better we would work as a team. Just naturally we got better," said Starcher. "So far it's been amazing, I've met so many great people just from this training... like UT1 [Utilitiesman 1st Class] Joshua Gatke who I'll want to go on deployment with and be there for them when they need me."
Starcher and his team members focus on the "fight" portion of the Seabee's famous motto "We build we fight," their mission to protect and escort vital equipment, construction projects and supplies.
Because of this responsibility, these Sailors are drilled in a whole new way. their training is designed to test the team's response under stress, tactical movements through urban environments, breaching buildings and locating improvised-explosive devices (IEDs), to name a few.
"The training is a lot of team-building exercises because you're fighting [alongside] your brother, basically," said Gatke. "You never know who's going to attack you from the back, so your buddy is watching your back while you're moving forward."
Sailors from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 are busy training to build a complete operational base complete with guard shacks and operations centers. Starcher and the others are learning how to guard the base.
"Our unit provides security, so when we go out there, the [battalion] won't have to worry about security. Because we have everything covered in 360 degrees, and they can do their job efficiently and they don't have to worry about something else," said Gatke.
Instructors work hard to replicate likely scenarios the team would experience during their operations. For example, the CSE recently helped with an intel training mission in a simulated town, providing information for their combat operations center.
Starcher gathers with the others from his truck and listens to the day's first patrol brief. He looks over to his team members, knowing the day will be long and exhausting, and realizes it could be a lot worse without them.
"Some days it's pretty hard," he said. "Everyone is going to have one of those days where you wake up at four in the morning and ask yourself, 'Why am I getting up right now to drive a truck around all day' But when you know you got your buddy right next to you who's going to help you out, maybe let you sit down out of the turret for a while or maybe just brighten your day, it can really get you going."