News: NMCB FOUR’s Unique Build Team
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Since their establishment on March 5, 1942, Seabees have been known to make history around the world. United States Navy Seabees were born in the dark days following the attack on Pearl Harbor when building victory seemed almost insurmountable. They were created to fulfill a crucial demand for construction workers who could fight.
With their “Can Do” spirit, Seabees have made the impossible, possible. “Can Do” took on a new meaning in November 1972 when the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., announced that female personnel would be granted entry into all Navy ratings, opening the way for Carmella J. Jones to become the first female Seabee in history. Many more would follow and make significant contributions. In 1994, the Department of Defense’s combat exclusion policy was revised and women were permitted to be assigned to mobile construction battalions.
Although it’s 18 years later, history is still being made. Eight women from U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FOUR, Detail Four joined together to form the first all female construction team. They answered the call and excitedly accepted an assignment which only few believed was achievable. They were tasked with building two 20-by-32 foot B-Huts at Village Stability Platform Malozai, Helmand province, Afghanistan.
At first the concept of an all female construction team was a random thought thrown around Det Four’s Operations Department, but it quickly turned into reality when several female crew members weren’t able to travel with their regular build teams to sites with limited berthing arrangements. Once the women heard about the tasking, they eagerly applied pressure to the ops chief, Chief Utilitiesman Mike Saenz, to give them the chance at proving themselves as highly skilled and capable Seabees.
“As a woman in the Seabees, it can sometimes be stressful proving myself to my male counterparts, and I find it exciting to be able to prove myself at their level or higher,” said Builder 3rd Class Jessica Vera.
Builder 3rd Class Gafayat Moradeyo was tasked as mission commander for the team. Typically Det Four mission commanders are a pay grade or two more senior than other members of the team; however, Moradeyo readily took on the challenge. She quickly gathered her team and laid out what needed to be done prior to their departure. In short order the team planned and estimated the project, validated building materials, packed their pallet of construction tools, and were ready to travel to Helmand province.
The team departed Bagram Air Field, Nov. 12, and began traveling to the site where their skills were needed. Traveling to remote parts of Afghanistan can be difficult at best. This mission was no different as they traveled by air, tactical ground movement, and by foot to reach their ultimate destination.
Unlike most times Seabees show up to a new location, this team was welcomed with rolling eyes and comments on the order of, “Really, a group of girls?” Moradeyo quickly put any doubts to rest as she met with the camp commander to identify berthing areas, where he wanted the B-Huts built, and camp rules. After this initial meeting, attitudes changed a bit as coalition Special Operations Forces operating at the site knew the Seabees were there to help improve their quality of life.
Because the site had only recently been inhabited by coalition SOF as part of Village Stability Operations, it lacked basic amenities and was in dire need of upgraded living facilities. Originally tasked with constructing two B-Huts, once on site they were asked to build four, one for a tactical operations center, a gym, and two berthing B-Huts.
“Water for bathing was pulled up in buckets from a shallow well, which was freezing cold and it smelled horrible!” said Builder Constructionman Shelby Lutrey.
Living conditions on the camp were austere at best. As in similar build sites everyone used "WAG BAGs" or “toilets in a bag” and lived off beans and rice for dinner.
“Although this camp is not really developed, we already knew what we were getting ourselves into,” Moradeyo said.
As soon as the team hit the ground, they began working diligently and completed the four B-Huts in record breaking time of just over two weeks; a completion time which their male counterparts have yet to achieve.
“Honestly, I was a little bit apprehensive when I heard that there was going to be an all female team,” said the quality control petty officer, Utilitiesman 1st Class Joshua Hullsiek. “But I was completely amazed and impressed by how efficiently and effortlessly they put the four buildings together in just two weeks.”
The team is extremely proud to have made history as the first all female Seabee construction team, but they are equally as proud to be supporting the efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
“It’s been nothing but a great experience and honor to be a part of something bigger than myself,” Moradeyo said.
Date Posted:01.14.2012 10:09
Location:BAGRAM AIR FIELD, AF
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