The battalion flag, prominently displaying the number four, over Camp Shields, Okinawa, has been lowered after Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4 transfered tasking in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, July 25, 2021. During a Relief in Place/Transfer of Authority (RIP/TOA) ceremony, Cmdr. Andrew Olsen, commanding officer, NMCB-5, took charge from departing commanding officer of NMCB-4, Cmdr. Troy Brown. The official RIP/TOA ceremony and changing of battalion flags signals the completion of NMCB-4’s six month deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.
NMCB-4, stationed in Port Hueneme, California, began deploying throughout the Indo-Pacific in December of 2020, driven by operational requirements from U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, Commander Task Force 75 and 30th Naval Construction Regiment. NMCB-4 was tasked with exploring and exercising their ability to support the fleet with Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations in addition to the numerous construction missions enhancing bilateral relationships across the region.
“We are the stand-in naval engineering force for the Indo-Pacific region. What that means is that we stand ready to help the fleet in any littoral situation while simultaneously aiding our partners and allies,” said Cmdr. Brown. “Seabees have such a wide range of capabilities. Whether it’s repairing and securing a harbor for our forward deployed ships, or executing Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, the Seabees here at NMCB-4 have shown what is possible''.
NMCB-4’s unique mission was met by the challenges of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Working within CDC and DOD guidelines, NMCB-4 successfully deployed Seabees to more than 10 partner and allied countries as well as U.S. territories, in a large part due to the command’s high vaccination rate. Throughout their deployment, Seabees of NMCB-4 were tasked with completing a wide range of different projects, all highlighting the diversity of their skill sets.
“Deploying during a pandemic is challenging to begin with, but we challenged our Seabees even more by asking them to discover and implement new ways of getting the mission done. Not only did they meet those challenges, they exceeded expectations,” said Cmdr. Brown. “In line with the spirit of our original name as the ‘Pioneers’, we were fortunate to work alongside our sister services, the fleet and the Marines, during exercise Poseidon's Watchtower. We showed the world how our integrated forces are the present and future of keeping an open and free Indo-Pacific. The women and men of this battalion truly exemplify what Seabees can do, and they did it with the world and the fleet watching. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Returning to their original nickname as the “Pioneers”, NMCB-4 led a first-of-its-kind exercise which gained worldwide attention for the Naval Expeditionary Combat Force. Poseidon's Watchtower (PWT) set out to prove a Seabee battalion’s ability to identify and establish Expeditionary Advanced Bases. Poseidon's Watchtower proved to be a crucial and successful exercise with the help from 3d Marine Logistics Group, 1st Marine Air Wing, Underwater Construction Team 2, and Naval Beach Unit 7. PWT showcased the Seabees’ value in enabling littoral fleet maneuvers in austere environments.
NMCB-4 worked yet again with their Marine counterparts from 7th Engineer Support Battalion to repair and enhance the port and harbor in Tinian, an island of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. The port serves to support the fleet during future operations.
In a show of integration with allies, NMCB-4 seized the opportunity to train alongside Republic of Korea naval forces during rapid bilateral support exercises. These exercises were aimed at supporting infrastructure improvements from typhoon damage.
Though NMCB-4 spent time improving on how to better support the fleet through engineering, they also continued to invest in our partners and the future leaders of tomorrow. NMCB-4 constructed a schoolhouse from the ground up for the youth in Timor-Leste and beach pavilions in the Marshall Islands. Through coordinated efforts, NMCB-4 successfully sent Civil Engineering Support Equipment (CESE) and supplies to Papua New Guinea for use in future projects to be carried out by NMCB-5.
Even with all of its success, NMCB-4’s deployment was not without its struggles and heartbreak. On April 18, 2021, Construction Mechanic Third Class (post) Gen Sun passed away during an off duty accident. Gen was found unresponsive by Tinian Search and Rescue after being swept out to sea while snorkeling during liberty in the vicinity of a local beach. Sun’s passing left his fellow Seabees devastated. Despite joining the command only a few months prior to deployment, Gen left a lasting impact on all those fortunate enough to meet him. NMCB-4 mourned his loss, while celebrating his life during private memorial services held on Tinian and Camp Shields, Okinawa. CM3 Gen Sun was later laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery.
“I am proud to serve with every sailor of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Four. Losing CM3 Gen Sun during this deployment affected every single one of us in the NMCB-4 family. Our Sailors have continued to impress me throughout this deployment. Watching them come together to support each other and Sun’s family showed just how close and resilient this amazing group of Seabees is,” NMCB-4 Command Master Chief Juan Zetino said.. “From executing exercises and completing construction operations throughout the competition continuum in the INDOPACOM area of responsibility, our sailors have shown their ability to face adversity and succeed. During deployments, life doesn't stop or slow down for anyone, good news or bad news, we take it in the chin and continue we press on. We will continue to build our resiliency during this homeport refining our technical and warrior skills. NMCB-4 Can-Do since 1942”
The trials and successes of NMCB-4 and its Seabees, served only to bolster the Naval Construction Force through their “Can Do” attitudes and pioneering spirit. NMCB-4 has returned to Port Hueneme, Calif., to continue their work at home and stand ready for future deployments.