16 August 2011

We Build, We Fight!

With three Chief selects from PHIBCB TWO
during a presentation of an ELCAS plaque. 
Well done to three of our newest Chiefs!
Last year I told you about my visit with our Sailors from Amphibious Construction Battalions ONE and TWO (PHIBCB ONE/TWO) during the annual training exercise to construct the Elevated Causeway System Modular (ELCAS-M) – a mobile pier system that can be shipped to any location in the world and assembled within a matter of days. 
Discussing the daily tasks of the
ELCAS-M build marshalling yard
with SW3 Cody Pratt.  You can
see the ELCAS-M jutting out into the
Chesapeake Bay in the background.
I had the opportunity last Thursday to visit the construction site of this year’s exercise and observe our PHIBCB ONE and TWO Sailors in action again, this time as they were constructing a whopping 840 feet of the ELCAS-M system.
During my visit I boarded the 5-wide – a massive barge made up of fifteen pontoon sections fastened together and powered by a Navy Lighterage (NL) Warping Tug. The 5-wide is used to transport the ELCAS-M components ashore from the Tactical Auxiliary Crane Ship (TAC-S) and the NL Warping Tug is based on the famous WWII “magic boxes,” the pontoon system used by the Seabees on D-Day to deliver supplies to our Forces ashore. While onboard the 5-wide, I observed our Seabees inserting a pontoon section with an incredibly large 200 ton crane positioned on the pier head. When I returned ashore, I observed some more demonstrations with the crane and then supervised our Seabee Steelworkers in the pile yard.   
Looking over a fine weld job done by SW3 Kevin Delgado
This visit got me thinking about how much construction and combat capability our Seabees have brought to the fight over the years. Our Seabees have played a critical role in every major conflict our nation has been involved in since they were established in 1942 – from improving and completing Henderson Field on Guadalcanal during WWII, the construction of a two mile runway at Cubi Point during the Korean War that required literally cutting a mountain in half (a truly remarkable feat!), to their recent roles in OIF and OEF where they have built roads, bridges, runways and forward operating bases (to name just a few of their impressive feats).    
Talking with ENFN Rodriguez while onboard
a Navy Lighterage.  ENFN Rodriguez is
only one of only two Engineman
in the Navy qualified to drive the 5-wide.
During times of peace, our Seabees have deployed to disaster zones to repair critical infrastructure and deliver supplies to the victims of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. When you consider all that our Seabees have done for our nation, there really is no question as to why they’re also known as “The Navy’s Goodwill Ambassadors.”
The ELCAS-M is just another example of what the world’s greatest combat construction force is capable of doing.

It was good to see our Seabees out in full force on Thursday. I had the opportunity to talk with many of our Sailors, such as SW3 Trinidad who spent the past five months in Iraq building a FOB for our special ops teams and ENFN Rodriguez who, I was surprised (and impressed) to learn, is one of only two Engineman in the Navy qualified to drive the “5-wide.” I was very impressed with their “can do” attitude.
All the best, JCHjr

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