The Navy Department Library
Seabee History: Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm
On 2 August 1990 the armed forces of Iraq began the invasion and subsequent conquest of the Emirate of Kuwait. Under United Nations' auspices, the United States and other member nations responded by deploying military forces to Saudi Arabia. The immediate goal was to forestall further Iraqi aggression; the long-range goal was to compel Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. The initial allied military undertaking to protect Saudi Arabia was dubbed Operation "Desert Shield."
Among the U.S. forces deployed to the region was the First Marine Expeditionary Force. Seabees were to provide construction support for this force. On 7 August the Seabees began preparations to deploy four battalions to the region: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, 5, 7, and 40. On 13 August the first Seabees arrived in Saudi Arabia, an element of Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, comprising 210 personnel. These men immediately went to work unloading Marine Corps equipment and supplies from Maritime Pre-positioned Force ships.
During the period 10-20 August, 100 Seabees of Amphibious Construction Battalion 2 departed Norfolk, Virginia, on amphibious ships bound for the Persian Gulf. While in the gulf these Seabees participated in numerous exercises with the Marines to prepare for an amphibious assault in the region.
The second wave of Seabees to arrive were personnel from Construction Battalion Units 411 and 415; they erected and maintained Fleet Hospital Five, a 500- bed hospital facility at Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Both units had female Officers in Charge, marking a first for the Seabees.
By 14 September the Air Detachments of the four deploying Seabee battalions had arrived. Each comprised 89 men and could operate for 30 days with out resupply. On 27 September NMCB 40's main body arrived in country from Camp Covington, Guam. By 18 October all the battalion main bodies had reached Southwest Asia. NMCB 5 arrived from its home port at the Naval Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, California; and NMCB 4 redeployed from Camp Moscrip, Puerto Rico. NMCB 7 redeployed from Camp Shields on Okinawa, and, unlike the other three battalions, was sent to Bahrain. In December NMCB 24, a reserve unit called to active duty, relieved NMCB 4. That same month, NMCB 5 and 40 were joined by Details 15 and 16 of NMCB 1 which was deployed at Rota, Spain. The 3rd Naval Construction Regiment, a reserve regiment, was mobilized to provide command and control over the deployed battalions. By early February 1991, 2,800 Seabees and 1,375 pieces of equipments had been deployed to the region in support of Operation "Desert Shield."
Upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia, the Seabees built critically needed facilities at the four airfields where the Marine Air Combat Element had deployed. This entailed construction of parking aprons, as well as base camps to house the Marines pouring into the area. Next, the Seabees built ammunition supply points for the large amounts of ordnance being transported to the region. Once these needs were met, the Seabees shifted emphasis to improving living conditions in the Marine camps.
Base camps were built for the 3rd Marine Air Wing, Marine Air Groups 11, 13, 16 and 26, and the 1st and 2nd Marine Division. In Bahrain, NMCB 7 supported the Army and Air Force, as well as the Marines. The battalion built strongback tents, an aviation storage facility, a munitions transfer road, and a 60,000 square foot aircraft parking apron. In December, NMCB 74 relieved NMCB 7 in Bahrain, and the latter battalion moved 200 miles north to Ras Al Mishab in Saudi Arabia.
Among major projects completed during Operation "Desert Shield" were a headquarters complex for the First Marine Expeditionary Force and a 15,000 man camp for the Second Marine Expeditionary Force. The latter project was the largest wartime multi-battalion Seabee project since the Vietnam War. NMCB 1, 4, 5 (project lead), 7, 24, 40 and 74 worked on the project. Construction began in late November. The camp comprised six modules, each capable of housing 2,500 men. Each module contained berthing, office space, showers, toilet facilities, a galley, roads, and parking areas. The completed camp complex was dubbed "Wally World."
Completing these projects required the Seabees to work seven days a week, two twelve hour shifts a day. The only days off during the whole period of Seabee involvement in the Gulf were Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Gulf environment provided an added challenge for the Seabees. When the first wave of Seabees arrived in August, the heat was intense, often reaching 1200 F. By the time most of the Seabee units had arrived in December, the heat had mitigated, daytime temperatures in the 70's dropping to the 30's at night. The other major problem was sand: it got into everything and was particularly hard on equipment.
Operation "Desert Storm," the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait began in early 1991. On 16 January 1991 the Allies initiated a massive air campaign against Iraq. Before it was over, Allied aircraft flew more than 40,000 sorties against Iraqi targets. At this time planning went forward for the 3rd Naval Construction Regiment to move into Kuwait in the wake of advancing Allied forces to open roads and airfields and provide immediate battle-damage repair.
In January 1991 the Marines began to move north in preparation for the expected ground assault on the Iraqis. In support of this, the Seabees began to concentrate on building and maintaining roads to serve as the main supply routes throughout northern Saudi Arabia.
After months of constructing millions of square feet of aircraft aprons, camps for tens of thousands of Marines, and hundreds of acres of ammunition and supply points, the Seabees prepared to support the ground assault into Kuwait. NMCB 5 moved half its strength to Al-Kabrit, 30 miles from the Kuwaiti border, and began construction of a Naval Construction Force Logistics Support Base from which the Seabees could provide the First Marine Expeditionary Force the construction support needed during the upcoming assault into Kuwait. The top construction priorities during this period were water, roads, and facilities for the Marine division assembly areas. Water was obtained by exploiting already-existing wells, and the Seabees built galley facilities for the 30,000 Marines of the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions. A 40,000 man capacity enemy prisoner of war camp was also built.
The most formidable task facing the Seabees was the road network required by General Schwarzkopf's "End Run" attack strategy. Spanning more than 30 miles of desert from Al-Mishab to Al-Kabrit, the "End Run" strategy ultimately required more than 200 miles of roads west and north of the Kuwaiti border. Because of the need to deceive the Iraqis, much of the construction necessary had to be done at the last minute. Working in the wettest weather seen in Saudi Arabia in years, Seabees completed the necessary construction in approximately two weeks. Thousands of trucks moved million of gallons of water and fuel, and tons of supplies, ammunition and spare parts on this road network to support the two Marine divisions making the assault. By the time the assault was launched, Seabees were maintaining approximately 200 miles of roads near the Kuwaiti border. One of these roads was an east-west corridor from Ras Al Mishab through Al Kabrit, continuing past Al Qaraah for a total distance of almost 100 miles. This six-lane road was traversed daily by more than 500 heavy haulers and thousands of tactical vehicles.
NMCB 5 and 40 relocated to the north and west. From this area, roads to the border, another well, and a 1,500-foot Remote Piloted Vehicle runway were built. On the day before the ground assault, Seabees dug in the 1st Marine Division command element on the border as the division moved into its attack positions.
On G Day, 25 February 1991, the Allies launched a massive ground assault against the Iraqis. The next day, an advance party from NMCB 5 and 24 entered Kuwait to prepare positions for the First Marine Expeditionary Force command element, and to repair airfields, maintain roads, and build more enemy prisoner of war camps. As the Seabees labored at these tasks, the smoke from hundred of burning oil wells turned day into dark. On 28 February, the Iraqi, devastated by the Allied attack, accepted a cease fire and the conflict ended. Construction ceased, and the Seabees returned to their units just south of the Kuwaiti border. Thus, ended the largest Seabee military action since the close of the Vietnam War.
The Gulf War demonstrated the ability of the Naval Construction Force, both active and reserve, to meet the exigencies of a large-scale military operation. Not all of the action, however, was in the Persian Gulf. Approximately 60 percent of the Seabee reserve units called to active duty were sent to other parts of the world to replace active-duty units sent to the Gulf early in the conflict.
OPERATION "PROVIDE COMFORT"
The Seabees, however, were not finished in Southwest Asia. Following the Iraqi defeat, the Kurdish minority living in northwestern Iraq rebelled in an attempt to win independence. The Iraqi government responded harshly and a gigantic refugee problem developed as hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled their villages into the mountains. The United Nations intervened to protect the Kurds and an Allied-occupied, protected enclave was established around Zakho, Iraq. A relief operation, Operation "Provide Comfort," was launched to provide facilities for the refugees until they could return to their villages.
On 11 April 1991, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, deployed at Rota, Spain, was ordered to send its Air Detachment to Zakho. This was followed on 22 April with orders for the battalion to recall all its details and to redeploy its main body to Zakho. While in Iraq, NMCB 133 was under the tactical command of the U.S. Army 18th Construction Brigade, consisting of the U.S. Army 94th Heavy Engineer Battalion, a British Army engineer squadron, a Dutch engineer battalion, and several smaller U.S. Army logistical units. NMCB 133's camp was established in a walled compound which was also the headquarters of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 18th Engineer Brigade. The Seabees were immediately over-tasked and went to a 12-hour day schedule, providing support to the refugee camps in the area. Work consisted of latrine construction, electrical and water-well support, road grading, forklift support, berm construction, and wash-rack construction. In general, the work could best be described as emergency service relief work.
It was originally anticipated that the Seabees would remain at Zakho for three months. It turned out, however, that they were able to leave after only eight weeks because during that period upwards of 300,000 Kurds were convinced that it was safe to return to their homes. The displaced persons camps near Zakho which had held as many as 60,000 Kurds at the midpoint of the deployment, saw this number drop to less than 15,000 by the time NMCB 133 departed.
In December 1990 a reserve unit, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 23, which had been recalled to active duty on Guam to replace an active-duty battalion sent to the Gulf War, provided disaster relief in the wake of a severe hurricane, one of the strongest to hit Guam in recent years.
OPERATION "FIERY VIGIL"
On 15 June 1991 Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted and poured more than two cubic kilometers of ash and sand over a 30-mile radius. This eruption was characterized as one of the most violent of this century. Within the radius of the eruption was the Subic Bay U.S. Naval Complex and Clarke Air Force Base. The eruption was followed by Typhoon "Diding" whose torrential rains saturated the ash and sand, creating dangerous roof loads and many other problems. Thus began Operation "Fiery Vigil." Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, and Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 302, and Public Works Center civilians provided disaster relief in the form of temporary shelter for those rendered homeless on the base. They also provided temporary power and emergency water supplies, and cleared roadways, and aircraft runways. A ship returning from Operation "Desert Storm" with Seabee equipment was diverted to Subic Bay and provided much needed equipment. A pre- positioned ship, carrying equipment for a Marine Air Ground Task Force, was also brought in. The damage was so severe that 20,000 dependents at Subic Bay and Clarke Air Force Base were evacuated from the area in the days following the eruption. Some 400 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 on Okinawa were sent to Subic Bay to help with the cleanup. Within 100 days, the Seabees demolished more than 50 heavily-damaged structures and, removed 250,000 tons of ash, cleared 900,000 square yards of aircraft paving and 75 miles of roads, restored 35 miles of overhead power distribution lines, cleaned and restored 750 air conditioning and refrigeration units, and erected 25 replacement buildings. Working with Public Works Center employees, the Seabees played a critical role in the rapid recovery of the Subic Bay naval complex.
Since the establishment of the Seabee Reserve after World War II, active and reserve Seabees, while frequently serving together, were part of two separate organizational structures. In July 1992 this changed when active and reserve Seabee units were integrated into two Naval Construction Brigades, under the operational control of the Commanders in Chief of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.
The Commander, Naval Construction Battalions, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; the Commander, Naval Construction Battalions, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and the 1st Reserve Naval Construction Brigade were disestablished. In their place were established the 2nd and 3rd Naval Construction Brigades. In addition, two new regiments were established: the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment under the 2nd brigade and 30th Naval Construction Regiment under the 3rd brigade. Thus, each brigade had two active regiments and six reserve regiments. The 2nd Naval Construction Brigade assumed operational control of three regiments, eight battalions, one Naval Construction Force Support Unit, and one Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit. In like fashion, the 3rd Naval Construction Brigade assumed operational control of three regiments, seven battalions, two support units, and one maintenance unit. When U.S. forces departed the Philippines in late 1992, Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 302 was relocated to Camp Covington on Guam. It was disestablished there on 20 July 1994.
OPERATION "RESTORE HOPE"
In 1992 famine struck Somalia. The country had been beset by a long period of civil war which left the central government fragmented and weak. By late 1992 almost 1,000 individuals, many of them children, were dying of starvation daily. Although relief supplies were pouring into Somalia, they did little to help. Armed gangs divided the capital and controlled the road system. The food was stolen or misdirected before it could reach those for whom it was destined. The U.N. decided to send in a military force to restore order. U.S. military units formed part of this coalition force and embarked upon Operation "Restore Hope." The Seabees went ashore to provide construction support to the U.S. contingent. The primary Seabee tasking was to provide vertical construction support to U.S. and coalition forces establishing base camps at each of the humanitarian relief sites. This including building heads, showers, tent decks, strongback tents, and kitchens. Seabees were also to repair and improve the main supply routes, which included bridge repairs and shoulder grading to widen roads. Wells were drilled and a seven-room school house was also constructed. The largest project was at the Baidoa airstrip which deteriorated as C-130 relief flights increased in the early part of the operation. This project involved removing 300,000 square feet of asphalt surface, pulverizing and mixing it with portland cement, and then grading and compacting the mixture. More than 600,000 square feet of AM2 matting was also laid for aircraft turnarounds, parking aprons and helopads.
On 10 December 1992 Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 arrived at Mogadishu as part of the Naval Support Element in Somalia. Within a short time ACB 1 unloaded five of the U.S. Marines' Maritime Pre-positioning Force ships, refurbished the port, and provided fuel and water for military forces in Somalia.
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 and 40 began deploying to Somalia on 10 December. Within 30 days both battalion main bodies had arrived. The 30th Naval Construction Regiment (Operational) was activated to provide command and control for the two deployed battalions. By the end of December, Seabees from NMCB 1 were convoying personnel and equipment to Baledogle, Bardera, and Baidoa to effect airfield repairs and improvements and construct base camp facilities for the deploying U.N. coalition forces. The Seabees arrived in Baledogle on 31 December and joined forces with Marines from Marine Support Wing Squadron 372 to establish landing and staging areas for CH-53 helicopters and a taxiway and turnaround pad for C-130 aircraft. The Seabees used 240,000 square feet of AM2 metal matting to construct the facility. Near Bardera, Seabees from NMCB 1 restored a water source to a refugee camp by installing a new pump on the bank of the Jubba River. Seabees from NMCB 40 completed Operation "Clean Sweep" in Mogadishu, which consisted of removing debris (trash and car hulks) from critical areas of the city. They also prepared a site for a 300-bed Army evacuation hospital and installed 90,000 square feet of airfield at the Mogadishu airport. NMCB 40 participated in the amphibious landing at the Port of Kismayo. They quickly completed repairs to the Kismayo airfield, which allowed the rapid deployment of follow-on coalition forces to that city. Finally, the Seabees provided construction support for President George Bush's visit to Somalia on 1 January. In addition to their tasking in support of the coalition forces, the Seabees carried out numerous civic action projects in support of the Somali people during the course of Operation "Restore Hope."
By the end of March 1993, the Seabees had successfully completed their support of Operation "Restore Hope" and returned to their previous deployment sites or their home ports.
OTHER SEABEE ACTIVITIES IN THE EARLY 1990'S
The Seabees celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1992. Special celebrations and ceremonies in Washington, DC, and at the construction battalion centers, and other Seabee activities marked the year. There was an especially large number of Seabee unit reunions that year which brought together veterans from all the wars in which the Seabees had served since their inception. In addition to the celebration, the Seabees continued to perform their normal duties, among which was disaster relief.
Hurricane "Andrew" struck Dade County, Florida, on the morning of 24 August 1992 inflicting extensive damage. There were few deaths, but more than 100,000 people were left homeless. More than 800 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, 4, 14, Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, and Construction Battalion Unit 410, 412, 419, and 420 provided disaster relief by repairing government buildings and approximately 270 schools.
In 1993 the Seabees participated in a number of events. The 2nd Naval Construction Brigade was involved in the planning process for potential peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia. The 2nd brigade and an air detachment from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 were involved in the United Nations mission in Haiti that year. Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, 5, and 7 played a major role in the counter-narcotics program in South America. Finally, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 participated in disaster recovery efforts on Guam in the wake of an 8.1 earthquake.
In 1994 Seabees provided a wide variety of support including work for the United Nations field hospital in Zagreb, Croatia; water well drilling teams to Morocco and Honduras; and nation-building and joint training exercise support to Surinam and the Dominican Republic. Seabees also participated in the incursion into Haiti. Specifically, Amphibious Construction Battalion 2 supported U.S. forces deployed to Port-au-Prince. At the Naval Station, Guam, Seabees carried out extensive repairs to the Victor Wharf, which had been damaged badly during the earthquake of the previous year.
In September and October 1995, during the most active hurricane season in history, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 carried out disaster relief assistance to the stricken islands of Antigua, St. Thomas, and St. John, after Hurricanes "Luis" and "Marilyn" savaged the eastern Caribbean. That same year, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 sent a disaster relief team to Kobe, Japan, after an earthquake struck that city. The Seabees set up tents and cots at seven different sites, providing shelter for victims of this tragedy.
HAITIAN AND CUBAN MIGRANT SUPPORT
The highest profile effort of the Seabees in 1994, however, was the support provided to Haitian and Cuban migrant efforts. This support grew in scope and extended into 1995. At first, 40 Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 (deployed to Puerto Rico) were sent to the U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to augment the public works department there. The evacuation of civilian employees from Guantanamo and the increased support required by Joint Task Force 160 that had been established there to oversee the migrant operation necessitated this movement. Next, a Seabee air detachment was dispatched from Puerto Rico to construct camps at Guantanamo for Haitian and Cuban migrants. Another air detachment was deployed from Puerto Rico to Grand Turk for the purpose of constructing additional camps and subsequently was redeployed to Guantanamo Bay to assist with the growing tasking. Additionally, Seabees supported Operation "Safe Haven" by constructing camps for Cubans migrants in Panama.
The main effort in Cuba was Operation "Sea Signal" during which Joint Task Force 160 constructed facilities to improve the quality of life of migrants at Guantanamo. By order of the 2nd Naval Construction Brigade, the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (Forward Element) deployed to Guantanamo in December 1994 with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 and an air detachment from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7. As directed by the U.S. Atlantic Command, the senior leadership of the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (Forward Element) met with engineers from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command's Atlantic Division to develop preliminary designs for the $35 million Quality of Life Improvement Program for 20,000 Cuban migrants.
The original plan called for the construction of 37 migrant villages arranged in 11 village clusters at two locations: Radio Range and McCalla Field, approximately seven miles apart. Migrant riots in Panama led to a decision to return 7,000 refugees to Guantanamo Bay; this resulted in both an accelerated construction schedule and an enlargement of project scope for the Seabees. A detachment from the Air Force's 820th Red Horse construction unit was mobilized from Nellis Air Force Base to assist the Seabees. When the project concluded the two tent cities constructed were capable of housing almost 20,000 people. This multi-national, joint-service work-force completed an astonishing 100,000 man-days of construction effort in a harsh environment while scheduling their construction projects around the migrants and their daily operations.
All engineering assets of Joint Task Force 160, including 358 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, 70 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7, 85 Air Force engineers from the 820th Red Horse Squadron, 65 Army engineers, 24 Marine Corps engineers, 93 reserve Seabees on Active Duty for Special Work, 45 active-duty augment Seabees, and 500 Cuban workers reported to the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (Forward Element). The Seabees operated in a joint- command environment: they berthed and messed in an Air Force camp, reported to an Army command, the Joint Logistics Support Group, and served under a Marine brigadier general who was joint task force commander.
After numerous scope changes, the final product consisted of two cities on separate 125 and 150 acre sites. Work in place included the erection of 1,341 strongback tents, 67 concrete block buildings, installation of over 17 miles of underground piping and 53 miles of electrical cable, batching and placing 11,700 cubic yards of concrete, and the operation of 311 pieces of Civil Engineer Support Equipment in excess of 72,000 hours and 390,000 miles.
In July 1995 Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 relieved Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 at Guantanamo. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 completed 23,000 man-days of total effort, finishing the $1.6 million, 30,000-meal per day, migrant galley in only 29 days and designing and constructing a 5,200 square foot stage for a televised MTV concert. Naval Mobile Construction 5 oversaw the Naval Construction Force withdrawal from Guantanamo, transporting $13 million worth of construction equipment and supplies off the island.
BOSNIA AND CROATIA SUPPORT
Throughout 1995 the 2nd Naval Construction Brigade maintained a high state of alert for potential Seabee involvement in Bosnia. As part of the relief operations in the former Yugoslavian republics, the 2nd Naval Construction Brigade provided an officer to augment the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees staff. This officer functioned as Engineering and Infrastructure Officer and served in a strictly non-military capacity assisting humanitarian relief operations.
In support of Joint Task Force "Provide Promise," in March 1995 a 35-person team from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 successfully brought to a close the Navy's turn at providing public works maintenance and operations functions at the Joint Fleet Hospital in Zagreb, Croatia.
In October the brigade sent a staff officer to the headquarters of Allied Forces, South, in Naples, Italy, to help finalize the NATO operations plan for Bosnia. Liaison Officers from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 were dispatched to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS WASP and to several locations in Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, and Germany.
At the start of 1996 a 170-person detail from NMCB 133 was deployed at the Sava River crossing at Zupanja, Croatia, constructing the first and highest priority tent camp of the entire Joint Endeavor Implementation Force (IFOR) operation. This deployment, which began in December 1995, marked the largest Seabee airlift in recent times and was the first deployment of Seabees utilizing the Air Force's C-17 aircraft. After expending 14,900 mandays constructing five tent camps and numerous sustainment projects, the detail redeployed to Rota, Spain, on 2 March 1996. The 2nd Naval Construction Brigade maintained a high state of alert for potential Seabee involvement in the disestablishment of many of these tent camps.
In September 1996 NMCB 40 continued the mission in Bosnia. A total of 334 personnel with 226 pieces of Civil Engineer Support Equipment (CESE) deployed to Bosnia on 21 September to disestablish fourteen base camps and complete nineteen force sustainment projects, expending 9,600 mandays in the effort. This marked the largest deployment of Seabees in recent history.
NMCB 40 was midway through a seven-month deployment to Camp Mitchell in Rota, Spain, when it was ordered to Bosnia. The above-cited CESE equipment and an additional 100 shipping containers were transported aboard the SS WILSON to Livorno, Italy. From Livorno the battalion moved via seven trains to an intermediate staging base at Taszar, Hungary. From there the battalion moved in four road convoys, escorted by military police, through Croatia, and down to Colt Base in Bosnia. NMCB 40 accomplished the entire move in three weeks from the time orders were received. In Bosnia NMCB 40 was under the orders of the Task Force Eagle Engineering Division. The battalion ultimately employed more than 400 Seabees in the U.S.-led Multinational Division North to tear down base camps as part of a withdrawal of U.S. Army troops from the region. Aside from disestablishment operations, the battalion was tasked with a variety of collateral projects, including road maintenance on main supply routes and snow and ice removal. Additionally, the battalion built a bypass road and a container laydown area in Bosnia; and a ammunition handling area in Croatia. Finally, with the deployment of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division to the theater, NMCB 40 was tasked to prepare for sustainment engineering projects at two base camps that were to remain as consolidation sites in the area.
SEABEE TRAINING IN THE LATE 1990s
Joint Engineer Training-96 (Senegal). JET-96 was an exercise which involved 42 Seabees from NMCB 133, 12 personnel from U.S. Army 3rd Special Forces Group, and 35 Senegalese Military Engineer Soldiers. The combined forces completed the construction of a classroom, three barracks buildings, and renovations to an existing 5,000-square-foot operations building. The project site was located on the Senegalese Infantry and Air Force Training Center in Thies, Senegal, and will support U.S. troops in future Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercises.
Peaceful Eagle-96 (Albania). To support this JCS exercise, NMCB 40 deployed 39 personnel to Rinas and Biza, Albania. This Detail completed 6 tension fabric structures, 24 burnout latrines, two 15-foot observation towers, 3 pedestrian bridges, 16 shave/wash stations, and numerous other small projects. This project was done in conjunction with Army engineers from the Southern European Task Force (SETAF) and provided a tremendous opportunity for service interoperability.
Baltic Challenge-96 (Latvia). BC-96 was the first of the annual In the Spirit of, Partnership for Peace exercises to be conducted in the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Conducted in Latvia, Seabee tasking entailed the renovation of a three-story barracks left in disrepair. In a short timeframe NMCB 40 deployed 43 personnel to complete this tasking. The detail completed this mammoth task in time for the 500 exercise participants to use the barracks for berthing.
Dynamic Mix-96 (Turkey). NMCB 40 deployed 43 personnel with 33 pieces of CESE and camp sustainment equipment to support DM-96. This Detail completed a 15,000 square foot Harrier landing pad under arduous conditions. In addition, two water wells were driven for the purpose of supporting the Turkish Air Base. These personnel were deployed directly to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Endeavor after the tasking was completed.
New Horizon 96 (El Salvador). NH96 - ES consisted of deploying 46 active-duty personnel from NMCB 7 and 18 reserve personnel from NMCB 14 to El Salvador from January 1996 through March 1996. The detail drilled two water wells, constructed a base camp at La Montana, and constructed a two-room school.
Carib Series/St. Lucia (St. Lucia). The Carib Series exercise in St. Lucia consisted of 38 active duty personnel from NMCB 7, 25 active-duty personnel from UCT 1, 24 reserve personnel from NMCB 26, and 16 reserve personnel from NMCB 24. The detail conducted renovations to existing St. Lucia Coast Guard Station, constructed a small boat pier, addition of a boat repair facility, and conducted renovations to Forestiere School.
Carib Series/St. Vincent (St. Vincent). This exercise consisted of 41 active duty NMCB 7, 24 reserve personnel from NMCB 26, and 24 personnel from NMCB 24. The Detail constructed two-story personnel support facility at St. Vincent Coast Guard in Calliaqua and conducted renovations at local community center.
Fairwinds 96 (Haiti). This exercise consisted of 57 active duty personnel from NMCB 7 deployed to Haiti from February 1996 to June 1996. The detail repaired two schools, constructed one K-Span building, converted 30 strongback tents into Seahuts, and installed septic tank with leach field.
In August 1996 NMCB 7 redeployed to Haiti with 35 personnel to begin construction of a 5.5 mile by-pass road. In September 1996 NMCB 74 relieved NMCB 7 with 40 personnel to continue road construction.
PEACETIME CONSTRUCTION OPERATIONS
NMCB 5, 7 and 74 deployed their main bodies to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. Detail sites were located at Andros Island, Bahamas; Vieques Island, Puerto Rico; G uantanamo Bay, Cuba; Norfolk, Virginia; and Rodman, Panama. NMCB 7 additionally deployed personnel to Atlanta, Georgia, in support of JTF-Olympics and to Fort Know. Detail site Rodman, Panama, was closed by NMCB 7. NMCB 133 and NMCB 40 deployed their main bodies to Rota, Spain, with details to Sigonella, Italy; Souda Bay, Greece; Naples, Italy; Edzell, UK; St. Mawgan, UK; and Thurmont (Camp David), Maryland. The battalions completed over 28,000 man-days of construction during the calendar year.
Seabees from NMCB 1 built two mosques on Guam to support the religious needs of approximately 2,100 Kurdish evacuees. The mosques were modified seahuts built of plywood and two-by-fours. NMCB 3 was involved with a number of taskings on Guam and at several other detail sites from the western U. S. to Diego Garcia in 1995. While on Guam the battalion's main body participated in Exercise Kennel Bear, the deployed field exercise for NMCBs operating in the Pacific Naval Construction force area of operations. The battalion main body completed a firing maze and was working on K-span buildings for Special Warfare Group One. Battalion members also operated the concrete and asphalt batch plants at Orote Point.
On Diego Garcia NMCB 3 constructed housing for contractors hired by the base. Battalion personnel also made repairs to the chapel and the library.
The NMCB-3 detail Southwest Asia installed camp lighting and a loading ramp in Doha, Qatar.
At the Naval Air Station, Fallon, Nevada, NMCB 3 personnel constructed a recycling compound and a supply warehouse.
A 70-person detail was posted in the San Diego area, working on projects at the Naval Air Station North Island, Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, and Naval Air Station San Diego. Seabees in these southern California areas stayed busy with a host of taskings aimed at improving fleet readiness and quality of life for sailors stationed there.
Nearly two years have passed since NMCB 5 last occupied Camp Shields, near Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan. As part of their normal rotation cycle, NMCB 5 arrived on island to relieve NMCB 4 in the role of providing construction support to the region.
During the deployment, NMCB 5 constructed several projects at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Kadena Air Base and the Marine Station and Camp Schaulb. The Seabees were also be tasked with building a retaining wall at White Beach and a seawall at Awase in addition to continuing the road improvement project at the Northern Training Area and various other Commanding Officer discretionary projects in the local area.
The unit will be deployed to the region for seven months with detail sites at Sasebo, Iwakuni, Yokosuka and Atsugi, Japan; Pohang, Korea; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Battalion also has a Deployment for Training (DFT) unit in northern South Korea and a Civic Action Team on (CAT) the island of Pohnpei. NMCB 5 continued to demonstrate outstanding support to fleet activities.
NMCB 4 completed its 1996 Pacific deployment in September. While deployed, the Battalion was headquartered at Camp Shields, Okinawa, Japan, and maintained details in Sasebo, Iwakuni, Yokosuka and Atsugi, Japan; Pohang, Chinhae, Osan and Kwang-Ju, Korea; Hawaii; and Adak, Alaska.
During its deployment, the battalion was responsible for a significant number of construction projects that will benefit the customer activities for years to come. On Okinawa the Seabees constructed a building addition for the Marines of Camp Futenma, installed an underground water main at the White Beach Recreation Area, and made major progress on a road construction project at the Marines Northern Training Area.
Operation "Cobra Gold." Long after U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen packed their gear and departed Thailand following Exercise Cobra Gold `96 closing ceremonies, the impact of their visit on the Thai people will endure.
Six South Malay Peninsula villages were recipients of Cobra Gold `96 Engineering Civic Action Projects (ENCAP). Each project consisted of a generic building design modified to meet the needs of a particular community. The 8 by 20 meter buildings included: two child care centers; a school cafeteria; a craft center; and a school auditorium. At two of the sites, latrines were built in addition to the main project. Construction took about three weeks each. The 3rd Naval Construction Brigade oversaw the six projects along with 91 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Engineers and 50 Thai military construction engineers. There were 54 Seabees involved in the exercise, 14 from NMCB 18, 38 from NMCB 4, and 37 Marines from the 9th Engineer Support Battalion, Okinawa.
The projects were grouped into three northern projects in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province and three projects in Shingkhla Province to facilitate supporting the sites with food, water and building supplies. The projects were selected from Thai nominations based on budget, ability to support village need, and engineering training value. The total cost of all the projects came to about $175,000, including the material and labor value. The funds were provided by U.S. Commander in Chief, Pacific (USCINCPAC), under the Humanitarian and Civic Assistance Program. All materials were purchased from Thai contractors.
Because of fairly primitive conditions in many of the villages, the engineers faced an eye opening experience in working and living in harsh field conditions. At the Ban Rai construction site, they were challenged by the oppressive heat, torrential rains and knee-deep mud, which combined to cause several days of setbacks. But these hardships were more than offset by the Thai's hospitality.
Six Thai villages received new buildings their entire communities can use and appreciate for years to come. For the engineers, they departed Thailand with a keen sense of accomplishment and a feeling of having made a significant contribution to the welfare of the villagers they met during their time in Thailand.
The Seabee deployment to the former Yugoslavia and routine deployments, training exercises, and civic action projects were characteristic of the 1995-1996 period. With the Cold War over, by the late-1990s the Seabees were involved in providing support to various United Nations undertakings, participating in Navy and joint-service training exercises, and performing disaster relief and civic action. No matter what the situation, however, you can be sure of one thing: when the toughest, dirtiest, meanest, most impossible construction jobs in the world come up, the Seabees will be sent because they "Can Do!"