News: NMCB 74 Project Great for Naval Air Station, Better for Training Seabees
Story by Chief Petty Officer Scott Boyle
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Training to be a Seabee requires more than studying manuals or sitting in a classroom. To excel in all aspects of construction, today’s Seabees need real world, hands-on experience. The Construction Training Exercise (CTX) is designed for that very purpose.
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74, from Gulfport, Miss., has a team of 21 Seabees building a boat ramp to support Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas. The homeport project gives Seabees an opportunity to maintain their core construction skills outside of a classroom, while also improving quality of life conditions at the base.
“It gives them a sense of ownership and they are enjoying what they are doing,” said project Assistant Officer-in-Charge, Senior Chief Construction Electrician Raquel Jeffers. “It gets them out of the classroom and they get the hands-on experience. To see them work through the challenges is really rewarding,” she said.
CTX projects give Seabees on-the-job training, while also exposing them to the elements outside the rigid controls of the classroom. Steelworker 3rd Class Alan Moiles said the boat ramp project is complex but it gives the young Seabees a great opportunity to improve their skills.
“It’s very different since we don’t get the mud and the water in the classroom,” he said. “I’ve done rebar work before, but nothing like this.”
In the classroom, even during the labs in class, everything is controlled said Construction Electrician 2nd Class Joshua Guerreiro, the project crew leader.
“The things we have encountered out here, building the boat ramp, the demolition, the rain and mud, it has made us think outside the box and come up with things they don’t teach you in the classroom to overcome obstacles.”
Jeffers said learning to adapt to and overcome environmental changes, while still completing a project, is a skill all Seabees need. The different skills needed to build the boat ramp also translate to projects Seabees take on during deployments, such as building schools and airfields. Practicing those skills during homeport projects makes the Seabees more efficient when they are in harsh, deployed environments.
“Most everybody on this crew has come out of the desert, so we’re good at building Southwest Asia (SWA) huts,” Guerreiro said. “This project will give us a lot of rebar work, a lot of concrete work, things we have never done before and it will really expand our skills,” he said.
NAS Corpus Christi Public Works Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Craig Clutts, sees the project as a great training opportunity for the battalion Seabees.
“In my two years with NMCB 74, back in 2006-07, we were deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Guam,” he said. “We had three personnel out of 600 trained to oversee quality control of overhead concrete pours, the type of work these Seabees are executing on this base today.”
The quality of life improvement on the base is also a big part of the CTX concept since these projects, while giving the Seabees an invaluable training experience, also leave something behind the customers can use. Clutts said the base on Corpus Christi has lost several units over the past few years and this boat ramp will be extremely important in supporting base operations and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s mission of supporting the service members stationed there.
“This project will revitalize MWR for the base,” Clutts said.
Since the project began, Jan. 4, 2012, people working on NAS Corpus Christi have been clear in their appreciation for the Seabees’ efforts.
“Everyone knows us now,” Moiles said. “They see the uniform, and there aren’t a lot of Seabees here, so they are really appreciative of what we do.”
“Every day we get praise out here, people saying ‘Seabees, we can’t thank you enough,’” Jeffers added. “It is a big morale boost.”
The NAS Corpus Christi boat ramp project, scheduled for completion in May 2012, is just one of several CTXs planned or ongoing at bases throughout the continental United States.