War on Terrorism

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seabees Provide Critical Support in Afghanistan

By Builder 3rd Class (SCW) Jacob Kusay, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 Public Affairs

SANGIN, Afghanistan (NNS) -- Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 Seabees returned to Camp Leatherneck April 6, after safely completing two combat outposts (COP) and improving a critical road in support of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).

Since arriving to Afghanistan in November 2010, NMCB 3 has built more than five combat outposts and has improved three roads.

Most of these Seabees were also on Det. Maiwand, where they had gained contingency construction experience by building a patrol base for British and NATO forces in December 2010, in Helmand province.

"Knowing what to do the second time around made it a lot easier," said Equipment Operator 3rd Class (SCW) Cody Diehl. "I knew the sweat we put into this mission was providing much needed security in that area."

Historically, the area where the detachment constructed the COPs and road was built along Afghanistan's Route 611, has been a hot bed of insurgent activity and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks.

"The road improvements and base construction projects enabled the 3/8 Marine Battalion of the II MEF to gain control of the area," said Lt.j.g. Elise Chapdelaine, NMCB 3. "This gave the Marines the facilities and capability to stabilize that portion of the Helmand River Valley. Because of our Seabees' hard work and dedication, we have decreased insurgent capability in the region."

The first combat outpost (COP) construction consisted of building perimeter walls, a helicopter landing zone, guard towers and a detainee facility.

"None of us have ever built something like this [the detainee facility], so it was pretty unique," said Builder Constructionman (SCW) Jared Allbritton.

Once the majority of the base was complete the Seabees started to focus on the road and a another COP up north. Prior to this mission, there was only one paved road in the Helmand Province, Highway One, which runs east to west. The road the Detachment was improving, called Route 611, connects the province north to south.

Throughout the road project, which consisted of preparing the ground to be paved by others, the Seabees overcame many obstacles, some of them life-threatening. Within the first month of the operation, there were seven IEDs found along the route they were working on. This required coordination with Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams to clear the route so the work could continue.

"It was pretty scary to know we were working right where IEDs were placed, but knowing we were making improvements to help the NATO forces and the country was worth it," said Equipment Operator Constructionman (SCW) Jeffrey Andreski.

As the road improvement continued, the rest of the Seabees moved to a new COP north of where they started and began making improvements to its security infrastructure, including constructing earthen berms and towers. During this time, the austere living conditions of the Marines became more apparent to the Seabees.

"When we first arrived at the location, the Marines were living in holes wearing their gear 24/7," said Builder 3rd Class Aaron Rives, "We felt that we had to get the berm up as soon as possible, as well as make their living conditions more comfortable. It was good to see how happy they were at the end of the project."

The Seabees built a suitable latrine facility, dining area, and command operation center for the supported Marines.

Since World War II, U.S. Navy Seabees have been providing contingency construction and engineering support to the Marine Corps.

NMCB 3 is an expeditionary element of U.S. Naval Forces providing construction, engineering and security services in support of national strategy, naval power projection, humanitarian assistance and contingency operations.

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