HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (NNS) -- Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 experienced a rare opportunity when they received a visit from Commander of 1st Naval Construction Division (NCD), May 15 in both Helmand and Farah Provinces of Afghanistan.
Rear Adm. Mark A. Handley was accompanied by Command Master Chief John F. Mulholland, 1-NCD, Capt. Kathryn A. Donovan, Commodore of 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (NCR), and Command Master Chief Mark E. Kraninger, 22-NCR.
After several meetings at the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) headquarters on Camp Leatherneck, Handley was welcomed to Camp Krutke, by Cmdr. Lore Aguayo, Commanding Officer of NMCB-11.
Handley attended a ceremony in which he reenlisted Equipment Operator 2nd Class Charles E. Reid, originally from Lilburn, Ga.
Following the reenlistment the admiral frocked Intelligence Specialist Layne W. Duras, from Hillsboro, Ore., to Petty Officer Third Class. "I had never met him before, and my first thought was 'that guy is pretty tall,'" said Duras who admits he was nervous when he found out that he was going to be advanced by an Admiral. " ... but once I got up there and Admiral Handley started talking to me, everything went smoothly."
Handley then presented multiple awards and Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist (SCWS) enlisted warfare qualifications.
"It was pretty exciting," said Builder Constructionman Anna L. Parcher, "not many people get pinned by an Admiral." Parcher, who is originally from Jamestown, Pa., is one of the few who Handley awarded their SCWS to during the ceremony.
Later in the day Handley, Donovan, Mulholland, and Kraninger traveled to the Bakwa District of Farah Province accompanied by Aguayo, Command Master Chief Christopher Levesque and additional NMCB-11 staff.
Arriving in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Lavaredo, Handley and company were greeted by Lt. Seth D. Cochran, the Detachment Officer in Charge and other members of the Det. who guided the Admiral to meet Italian Army Col. Luciano Carlozzo, Commander of Task Force Southeast.
The two shook hands and exchanged dialogue in both English and Italian.
Following a meeting in the combat operations center, Handley was lead by Carlozzo on a tour of FOB Lavaredo. The Admiral met and conversed with Seabees as well as Italian troops along the way.
Handley addressed all the NMCB-11 Seabees of the Det. in the dining facility in the early evening. He spoke to the Seabees on multiple topics including the operational tempo that Seabees have experienced in recent years.
"Looking at 10-years of combat, from the beginning of OIF-1 'til today, this last couple of years has been the strongest and hardest pull that we've had as Seabees," said Handley. "We've actually had more Seabees deployed in these last two years than we have since Vietnam. So that's pretty significant."
The future of the Seabees, deployments, homeports, and training were all major topics that Handley touched on.
"One of the things I set out for our Seabee division was to look at our technical training, and really improve on higher-end skills. So you're going to see a couple of shifts. Where you used to go to 'F' school or SCBTs, you're going to see that done more on OJT. Then what we're going to do is free up time and get more C-1 advanced schools," stated Handley.
There were three main points of focus that the Admiral highlighted regarding the future of the Naval Construction Force.
"First and foremost, when we have fewer Seabees, like each and every one of you, we've got to make sure that we're getting the highest and best use out of you for support to those combatant commanders like the MEF, like the Italians that you're supporting here, like IJC," said Handley.
"The second one that we're going to focus on," continued Handley, "is maintaining our core capability. ... we've got to make sure we maintain that foundation ... ,"
"The last one, and probably the most important one from my perspective," asserted Handley, "is to make sure we take care of our people. ... we want to make sure that we take care of our people when they're in the Navy and as they transition out of the Navy."
Handley then turned the floor over to Mulholland who presented the Seabees with an upbeat motivational pep talk much like one might expect to hear in a locker room at halftime. Mulholland covered a few topics including peer intervention. "That's Sailors helping Sailors. We're in this together. Peer intervention is probably the most important thing that I can talk about in the Navy."
Mulholland concluded his remarks with "Keep doing good things for the entire Naval Construction Force. Hoorah!" To which the Seabees responded with a resounding "hoorah!"
A 1-NCD coin was presented to each of two selected Seabees for their exemplary performance before the Det. exited the dining facility.
Handley and staff concluded the visit by joining the Seabees for dinner before departing the FOB.
NMCB-11's mission in Farah Province is to expand FOB Lavaredo and construct helicopter landing zones to facilitate timely medical evacuations within the region.
Homeported in Gulfport, Miss., NMCB-11 is deployed to Afghanistan to conduct general, mobility, survivability engineering operations, defensive operations, Afghan National Army partnering and detachment of units in combined/joint operations area - Afghanistan in order to enable the neutralization of the insurgency and support improved governance and stability operations.