By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 16, 2009 - Instead of deploying to Kuwait, about 500 Navy Seabees will deploy to Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. The Seabees are the 25th Naval Construction Regiment home-ported in Gulfport, Miss., and they will deploy beginning next month in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"What the regiment provides is expeditionary engineering and construction support," Whitman said. The regiment can build buildings, put in roads or air strips. The projects the Seabees work on could be used by NATO and Afghan forces.
"This is a new deployment to Afghanistan," Whitman said. "The regiment was originally scheduled to deploy to Kuwait, but will now deploy to Afghanistan."
The unit will not have to go through intensive retraining due to the shift. "The type of tasks they do ... are labor skills, and whether you are doing those in Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan, it is very similar," Whitman said.
They will go through geographical orientation and cultural instruction before they deploy, and will be deployed for no longer than 12 months, he said.
U.S. officials have talked in the past of the need for more infrastructure to support additional U.S. forces that will deploy to Afghanistan in the coming year.
"These Seabees can provide the support that is necessary as we look to the future and can provide the type of construction that will be necessary as we look to add combat capability into Afghanistan," Whitman said.
The Seabees are the largest "enabling force" unit that has been announced, and are needed to allow combat units to perform their missions.
Whitman also announced the 25th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska, will deploy to Afghanistan as part of the normal rotation. The unit will replace the 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team in Regional Command East.
"The commander, of course, can place these forces wherever he sees fit," he said.
The 3,500-man brigade will be part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The Alaska unit will deploy beginning next month.