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    Seabees, Marines join together to renovate "Airport in the Sky"

    Seabees Work on Catalina Island

    Photo By Chief Petty Officer Jacquelyn Childs | AVALON, Calif. (March 1, 2019) Builder 2nd Class Andrew Handeland, assigned to Naval...... read more read more

    AVALON, CA, UNITED STATES

    03.20.2019

    Story by Chief Petty Officer Jacquelyn Childs 

    FIRST Naval Construction Regiment

    A cement truck rolls out of the clouds heading towards a group of Marines and Seabees holding concrete rakes and standing inside concrete formwork that has beenproperly constructed to the required dimensions and elevations. The truck passes dozens of other recently completed concrete slabs and pulls up alongside the empty concrete formwork. After preparing the chute, fresh concrete flows into the frame and the Marines and Seabees ferociously rake and screed the quickly-setting cement to ensure an even surface. This unique joint working environment is tucked away on a mountain in the clouds on a sparsely-populated island approximately 22 miles off the coast of southern California.

    “This is great,” said Steelworker 3rd Class Jamie Ferguson assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 25. “We’re literally up here in the clouds. It’s a very unique experience.”

    The “unique experience” is part of a project to renovate the runway at the “Airport in The Sky” on Catalina Island. The project, led by I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) falls under the Defense Department’s Innovated Readiness Training (IRT) Program, which has a mission “to produce mission-ready forces through military training opportunities that provide key services for American communities.” IRT projects similar to the “Airport in the Sky” affords drilling reservists from all branches the opportunity to work on community projects to assist in their readiness while helping out in the community, essentially a project that benefits all parties.

    Although the Marines are managing the project and greatly outnumber the Seabees onsite, the Navy Seabees assigned to NMCB 25 play a critical role in the large-scale project. As the recognized general engineering subject-matter experts, the Seabees are there to ensure the runway is constructed to code and with the fine expertise for which Seabees are renowned.

    “We are helping Marines build the runway for Catalina Island,” said Ferguson. “We are [placing] the concrete and making sure it looks good. We’re teaching the Marines how to do this as we go.”

    The partnership was highlighted during a ceremony at the airport on March 1 which allowed representatives from the community the opportunity to witness the work being done and hear firsthand from the leaders onsite about the benefits to both the island and the military.

    “I’d like to thank the men and women of the Seabees,” said Brig. Gen. R. A. Uribe, deputy commanding general, I MEF. “We’re not doing this alone; this is not a Marine Corps project. The Seabees are the ones mentoring our Marines so we’ve got about 80 percent of the mission, and 20 percent is the Seabees doing the mentoring. We’re the mentees and they’re the mentors, so thank you for what you do.”

    Everyone involved valued the opportunity to work together.

    “This is my first time working with the Marines,” said Utilitiesman 2nd Class Derek Clokow. “They’re teaching us stuff, we’re teaching them stuff and the camaraderie is just outstanding. Being able to joke around with each other is hands down one of the best parts of this project.”

    Another valuable benefit from the IRT project is the readiness and training opportunity that reservists are always striving to achieve. For service members who don’t normally do this kind of work on a daily basis, hands-on experiences like the runway project can be paramount for Seabees and Marines of all experience levels.

    “For me this is definitely a beneficial training opportunity since it’s my first project,” said Ferguson. “I haven’t even been on a project site like this before.”

    Even Seabees like Clokow whose rate primarily has him working on plumbing, HVAC and other utility functions on a project agree that this airfield is a great learning opportunity despite it being primarily concrete placement.

    “I’d say it’s beneficial,” he said. “Every chance to learn something new is going to help me help other people out in the future. If there there’s another cement placement project, I can always get in there, get dirty and be able to work to make the project go faster.”

    Finally, one of the largest benefits of this and all IRT projects is the fact it is helping a community. United States service members from various branches work on projects and missions around the world but the opportunities to give back to communities in the U.S. are as equally valuable.

    “I think it’s great that we’re getting out there and helping on the home front, not just helping out foreign countries,” said Ferguson. “It’s great that we can help there too but doing a project like this in the states is cool.”

    The project is scheduled for completion in the early Spring time in preparation for the island’s busier time of year for incoming and outgoing flights. The airport is located about 30 minutes away from Catalina Island’s biggest city, Avalon. Dating back to 1940, the runway was actually leased out to the U.S. government during World War II for military operations and the official opening of the private airport was in 1946.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 03.20.2019
    Date Posted: 03.20.2019 16:24
    Story ID: 315064
    Location: AVALON, CA, US 

    Web Views: 243
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