News: Seabees build cottage, skills aboard MCBH
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor recently completed reconstruction of a historic recreational cottage overlooking Kaneohe Bay.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii commemorated its completion in a ceremony, Aug. 2. The two-story retreat replaces an older wooden cottage built in January 1972 by Navy Seabees from Naval Construction Battalion 133 of Gulfport, Miss.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do a project that honors the original Seabee cottage as well as honors the Seabees’ long partnership with Marines,” said Navy Lt. John Daly III, the resident officer in charge of construction for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii and the detachment’s previous officer in charge.
Seabees began work on the new building in September 2011, after maintenance workers in 2008 discovered the older cottage had asbestos tiles and lead-based paint. The only areas left from the original structure are sections of the concrete sidewalk. Daly said the new cottage uses safer, modern materials that are durable in Hawaii’s climate.
“The siding of the new cottage is made from fiber cement,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Rouel Agustin a builder from the detachment and the project supervisor. “This can stand up better to seawater air from the bay. The house also has composite trim that’s more durable than wood.”
An average of 10 people worked on the building each workday. The Seabees leveled the ground and prepared a stable foundation with wood molds and cement. They needed to pour some of the cement from overhead to support an outdoor shower, due to the shifting sandy location and the size of the cottage’s location. The detachment dug out the area and poured 50 cubic yards of cement, equivalent to approximately five full cement trucks.
“Space there is so limited,” Agustin said. “We couldn’t put down large equipment. It was one of the hardest parts about the project because we couldn’t use bigger equipment to do it, we had to do a lot by hand.”
Despite challenging conditions and needing scaffolding for the multi-story cottage, Agustin said the Seabees had no safety mishaps on the job.
The unit took on construction of the 1,250-square-foot cottage to sharpen their skills using different types of building material and for military training. During Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2012, the detachment simulated building a medical treatment facility as they constructed the cottage.
Daly said his previous unit also took the opportunity to work with Army builders from 84th Engineer Battalion from Schofield Barracks. The Seabees invited the soldiers to the working site to assist Army engineers in simulations and develop the Army unit’s military construction management skills.
Agustin and Daly said the cottage offered a unique opportunity, allowing Seabees some control over the cottage’s finishing details.
Daly, who worked in construction projects in Uganda and other places overseas, said a Seabee unit doesn’t always decide on final fixtures or see their structures develop from start to finish.
“The Seabees’ quality of work is equal to newer base housing,” said Maj. Dean Stouffer, the maintenance officer at MCB Hawaii. “With their work, there’s no need for extensive maintenance at the cottage for the first several years.”
Stouffer said the cottage is one of several projects the Seabees have completed at Kaneohe Bay, in addition to staffing the Self Help office that assists units with headquarters maintenance.
“The Seabees do great work for us,” Stouffer said. “We’re also working on a laundry facility near a Pollock Field and Mackie Hall they’ll be building after plans are finalized.”
Construction may be finished, but the Seabees are still working and moving new furniture into the retreat as well putting back historical unit memorabilia saved from the old cottage.
Daly said deployment placards from units as far back as the 1950s would be inside for the new cottage visitors to see.
Many are from Seabee units that no longer exist, Daly said.
“The nature of mission changes and name of commands change,” he said. “But the people who know the history keep it. We take it with us wherever we go.”