OKINAWA, JAPAN -- U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 successfully completed a major combat operations (MCO) and humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HA/DR) readiness exercise, consisting of a 48-hour mount-out exercise (MOX) and subsequent 48-hour command post exercise (CPX), Aug. 24-28.
The exercise scenario called for NMCB-3 to deploy a task-tailored air detachment to provide general engineering support to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force to establish an expeditionary advanced base while also conducting rapid airfield damage repair to defend a fictional nation and restore peace in the region. The Seabees did not actually deploy Seabees for the exercise, but rather exercised all the skills and abilities needed to do so.
“This week has been about an opportunity to really improve the readiness of the battalion to respond at a moment’s notice to MCO or HA/DR missions,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Parizek, NMCB-3’s operations officer. “The reality is, we lose and gain people in the battalion like any other command, so it takes a constant effort to give our Seabees the experience they need and sustain the battalion’s high level of readiness required by our supported commanders for a variety of missions. We used the opportunity this week to prepare both our personnel and equipment for response in the event that we receive an order. The command and control (C2) of this process requires around the clock effort with all hands on deck to be ready within 48-hours.”
The MOX portion simulates one of the core capabilities of an NMCB: the ability to deploy an 89-person air detachment within 48 hours to support any mission required by a supported commander.
The Seabees worked day and night in shifts to move 39 units of civil engineering support equipment (CESE), 28 pallets consisting of tricon storage containers with shoring materials, construction tools, an armory, medical supplies, communications equipment, shower and galley materials, meals-ready-to-eat, and personnel gear issue. The air detachment Seabees needed to ensure they were all fully administratively and medically ready while maintaining C2 of their detachment.
After identifying the appropriate materials to support the mission, the Seabees can’t simply load them as-is into an aircraft. Getting the equipment ready for liftoff consists of several evolutions and meticulous attention to detail.
Teams of Seabees were tasked with washing each piece of CESE and construction mechanics inspected and performed necessary maintenance. Other Seabees built pallets and shoring to load the equipment, measured each piece of CESE to locate its center of balance, and collected data to prioritize the order of shipment in the staging area. Finally, a load planner used this data to determine where each item will be placed in the military aircraft before the Seabees can stage the items. If these steps are not taken and the load is not properly planned, it could unbalance the aircraft and endanger the flight.
The CPX portion challenges NMCB-3’s C2, communications and timely decision making capabilities through real-world scenarios, and ultimately ensures the battalion’s readiness for operating in a distributed environment.
The exercise would generally be held in a Naval Enterprise Tactical Command Control tent configuration, which the Seabees use in the field, but this was not the case for this exercise due to inclement weather conditions that brought high winds. In this case, the battalion chose to be prudent and protect its assets, so the exercise was primarily held in training classrooms on the camp.
At this point of the exercise, the Seabees have simulated successfully deploying their air detachment and are now exercising C2 to ensure the mission objectives of the scenario are met safely and effectively. The mood in the tactical headquarters (THQ), the main hub of information and decision making, was tense as the Seabees manned their positions on the watch floor, made plans, and responded to incoming information.
Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Amiel Cunanan has stood watch in some capacity, including as part of the THQ, during seven CPXs and two battalion field training exercises. This time, Cunanan’s experience made him an obvious choice for being a member of the evaluation team.
“We’re evaluating this exercise day and night to observe and test how the watch teams manage detachments, communicate amongst themselves and up the chain of command, prepare reports and make decisions in a timely manner,” said Cunanan.
Exercising the command post watch standing and communications procedures are crucial to guaranteeing that Seabees ensure the clear and concise flow of critical information to allow the chain of command to take proper actions to understand and react to situations in a swift and effective manner.
“Overall, I think the watch teams performed very well,” said Cunanan. “I think this is because they had a good mix of experienced and inexperienced Seabees. The more experienced Seabees were great with training some of our first-time watch standers beforehand and it definitely showed when I would ask one of them questions and they could tell me exactly what was going on during the developments we threw at them.”
The days and nights of effort for the MOX culminated in an inspection performed by subject matter experts from NMCB-3, who were not exercise participants, to determine the accuracy of the information and load plan to get the materials to the mission area, demonstrating that NMCB-3 stands ready to mobilize their air detachment. Likewise, the CPX was evaluated by the experts, but their assessments were taken throughout the exercise as different scenarios were interjected and then compiled into a final assessment.
“At the end of the day I hope each Seabee understands their role because everything we do here leads to them being required to provide high-quality construction to our supported commanders whenever we’re called upon,” said Parizek. “A large part of what our supported commanders need from us is understanding our mission and being ready to respond, and we’re here at our forward deployed location to be that force.”
NMCB-3 is deployed across the Indo-Pacific region conducting high-quality construction to support U.S. and partner nations to strengthen partnerships, deter aggression, and enable expeditionary logistics and naval power projection. The battalion stands ready to complete assigned tasking, support HA/DR and MCO response throughout the area of responsibility.