usually some of the first forces in
there and we really get to know the
people and get to build trust. We
often work side by side with their
military to start to build those partnerships.
Disaster recovery is another
capability we bring, [such as to]
Japan and Indonesia [after their
earthquakes and tsunamis]. The
earthquake in Haiti is a great example. We had a significant effort to
clean up [after Hurricane] Katrina.
We’re doing community cleanup,
clearing roads, clearing streets,
repairing schools, helping to restore
utilities where we can, repairing
docks and piers when they’re damaged. For example, in Haiti we sent
an underwater construction team
out there and they did some great
work to repair the dock and get that
port back open.
What type of projects are
Seabee battalions currently
HANDLEY: From a magnitude perspective, in 2010 we had four battalions in Afghanistan. We’re now
down to two battalions. We still
have a couple of the detachments
up in Iraq supporting some of the
special operations forces today.
We have two battalions out
throughout the rest of the world, mostly Africa, and a little
bit in Europe, the Pacific [and] South America. The majority of that work was Theater Security Cooperation.
We’ll send Seabees into places like Timor-Leste. We
have a continuous presence there and we were building relationships military to military as well as with
the civilian population and the leadership. That has
been a great asset for the fleet commanders as they
work to get port access and build security partnerships for the future. Sometimes we’ll build an operations facility for their navy or army, and that has also
proved to be very effective.
Rear Adm. Mark Handley meets with Construction Mechanic 1st Class Clifton
Setty, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 40, during a train-
ing exercise in the Combat Convoy Simulator at Naval Base Ventura County,
Calif., Feb. 18, 2010. Setty had recently been named 1st Naval Construction
Division Sailor of the Year and was named the Naval Expeditionary Combat
Command Sailor of the Year in April 2010. Handley and Setty served together
in NMCB- 5 when Handley was the commanding officer.
What are the particular challenges of operating
HANDLEY: It’s a dangerous environment. It puts our
troops in armored equipment and protective gear and it’s
a pretty harsh environment. If you were there around
this time in Kandahar, you’d see temperatures at 120
degrees. You add on top of that Kevlar [body armor] that
you wear outside the wire and you work outside, it gets
pretty hard for those Seabees doing hard construction
work. It’s also tough on our equipment.
The real hard one is logistics. If you decide you need
something, it takes you several months to get it there.
They’ve got some great distribution networks, but the
Northern Distribution Network will take you several
months to get material there from the time you decide
you need it. The urgent stuff can get flown in, but
sometimes the material we work with is kind of large
and bulky, so it takes some planning ahead of time in
order to have the right materials. We’ve been there
long enough now that we’ve got that pipeline pretty
well filled and flowing.
There are tons of engineer requirements in Afghanistan. Every forward operating base has construction
[and] repair requirements and our troops are limited.
When the president announced a surge of 30,000 troops