U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 completed Exercise TURNING POINT throughout the state of California July 26 to Aug. 20.
The field training exercise required NMCB-3 to establish a task group on San Clemente Island where it would exercise control over task units, smaller groups assigned specific engineering missions in support of the task group, at Camp Pendleton, Fort Hunter Liggett, Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, and Vandenberg Space Force Base.
Exercise TURNING POINT centered around challenging the Seabees to construct operational infrastructure and expeditionary facilities to simulate the establishment of Advanced Naval Bases (ANB) to support Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). EABO involves the employment of mobile, low-signature, persistent, and relatively easy to maintain and sustain naval expeditionary forces from temporary locations within a contested maritime area to conduct sea denial, support sea control, or enable fleet sustainment. ANBs are temporary bases established in or near an operational area where the primary mission is to support fleet operations such as EABO.
The exercise scenario is new to the Pacific Fleet Seabees in comparison to past field training exercises, but has been reimagined to more closely reflect the challenges they will face throughout their area of responsibility while deployed to the Indo-Pacific region.
“This exercise determined that we are technically and tactically proficient and ready to deploy wherever we’re called,” said Cmdr. LaKeeva Gunderson, commanding officer of NMCB-3. “We had challenges and we were very successful in overcoming them. They were numerous and difficult, which is what we wanted, but we met our goals without fail each and every time. Our young leaders stepped up to make decisions that allowed us to find alternative ways to navigate problems and meet the mission. Additionally, our leadership had to make deliberate risk decisions that continued to push our projects and mission forward. This is what the exercise is all about.”
At the battalion’s main body on San Clemente Island, Seabees, along with an attachment of Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB), established an ANB perimeter and security, set up a tactical headquarters and tactical operations center to secure communications with higher headquarters, set up a battalion aid station; galley; and showers & laundry to set conditions for construction tasking. The Seabees executed construction of ten Southwest Asia huts, 20 tent decks with modular general purpose tent systems, placed nearly 100 cubic-yards of concrete for road repairs, and began construction of a 150-foot-by-150-foot concrete pad for vertical takeoff and landing.
At Camp Pendleton Seabees drove 100 linear-feet of sheet pile to repair an existing quay wall at the Del Mar Boat Basin. At Fort Hunter Liggett they constructed a 20-foot-by-60-foot pre-engineered building and drilled a 600-foot water well capable of producing 60 gallons-per-minute and 86,000 gallons-per-day. At NAWS China Lake they conducted maintenance and construction of ground lines of communication while conducting quarry blasting and crushing operations. At Vandenberg Space Force Base Seabees worked with Marine Wing Support Squadron 372 and 7th ESB Marines to perform airfield damage repair consisting of 15 craters and 60 spalls, a 200-foot-by-85-foot concrete runway expansion, and road repairs.
NMCB-3 gained a wealth of experience from the exercise, namely in navigating logistics hurdles by air and sea. The Seabees exercised detailed planning to use civil engineering support equipment, military aircraft, and barges to move personnel and materials to remote locations.
“Planning is everything when conducting distributed operations,” said Lt. Reece Comer, NMCB-3’s operations officer. “Working through the logistical challenges of getting material and equipment to an island is not something you can fully understand until you actually do it – and we did. Critical and outside-the-box thinking are paramount when executing these types of missions with limited material, equipment, and personnel. Therefore, Seabee ingenuity is going to be an invaluable resource for operations in the Pacific.”
Additionally, the operations on San Clemente Island and Vandenberg Space Force Base served a dual purpose to not only execute maritime construction tasking, but to also cross-train Marine tactics and Seabee construction skills to increase Navy-Marine Corps effectiveness.
“This provided us an opportunity to get away from looking at what Marines and Seabees can do together on paper and actually get our here and put it into practice,” said 1st Lt. Anthony Sposato, who lead a team of 7th ESB Marines on San Clemente Island. “The Marines got a lot of experience in vertical construction and engineering expertise while we were able to teach Seabees what we can do tactically to create a stronger team. Going forward, every fight is going to be a joint fight, and this let us better prepare for it because without training the capability, we lose the effectiveness of interoperability.”
Field training exercises require NMCBs to work around the clock to complete construction tasking, self-sustainability, and maintain security all while under constant duress from aggressors attempting to disrupt operations and foil the Seabees’ mission. Exercise TURNING POINT turned these variables up a notch with increased realism, logistics and communications challenges, and interoperability to prepare NMCB-3 to stand ready to build, support, supply, and sustain ANBs and EABO in support of U.S. objectives in the Indo-Pacific.
One of the first battalions commissioned at the start of World War II, NMCB-3 has the ability to build and fight anywhere in the world as either a full battalion or as a group of autonomous detachments completing critical engineering and construction missions simultaneously.
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 Navy objectives globally.