News: NMCB 74 Khakis Dig Deep in August Heat
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. - The chiefs and officers of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 have made a huge stride towards readiness with the completion of their khaki field training exercise at Camp Shelby, Miss., Aug. 20. The one week field exercise gave the “Fearless” leadership the opportunity to develop tactics and technical proficiency, improve teamwork and build camaraderie. Additionally, it provided first-hand experience of the physical challenges their Seabees will be faced with during the battalion’s upcoming field training exercise.
Every NMCB must successfully complete a FTX prior to deployment in which it is tested on many areas, such as communications; chemical, biological, radiological defense; embarkation; convoy security and patrols. During FTX Seabees will build the camps, defend the lines and conduct the patrols, while the leadership plans, coordinates and leads the operation. However, during Khaki FTX the leadership constructs the camp, defends the lines and conducts the patrols on their own.
Brian Bellefeuille, chief select equipment operator, has seen his fair share of field exercises, but was anxious to be part of a Khaki FTX. Fourteen NMCB 74 Chief Selects joined the Khaki FTX roster merely two days after their selection.
“It’s cool being on this side of the fence actually seeing the officers and the chiefs, even the skipper, digging foxholes and going on 3,300 meter foot patrols. I plan on bringing this back to Gulfport and letting the troops know that there truly isn’t anything we would have them do that we wouldn’t do ourselves,” said Bellefeuille.
As soon as the khaki platoon arrived on-site, they quickly worked together to build their base camp and divided themselves into four squads. For the duration of four days the squads executed four primary exercises: COC operations, defensive operations, convoys, and patrols.
Despite the khaki’s leadership positions in the battalion, the participants were shown no special treatment while coping with the harsh Aug. weather. Temperatures reached more than 100 degrees and heavy rains harassed the watch standers day and night.
“Rain or shine, it doesn’t matter,” said Jeffrey Allgood, chief builder, NMCB 74 safety officer, from his water-filled fox hole. “This gives us an opportunity as chiefs to hold training with the junior officers so that when we get out in the field, they will know that their chiefs are here, and they can come to us before making decisions.”
According to Lt. j.g. Joshua Baker, he and the other khakis either develop or renew their respect for what the junior troops are often faced with in the field.
“This gives us a better perspective as leaders. When we have to tell someone to dig a fighting position that just finished digging six feet down, ‘no this is not exactly right, I want you to move it over here’, now we physically know what that means,” said Baker. “When we draw the fire plans, we have got to do it right before we start telling them to dig.”
For several of the chiefs and officers, this was their first time in the field. Chief Navy Counselor Jeremy Stalling, NMCB 74’s command career counselor is only one of many who just came on board earlier this year. Without this training they would find themselves leading troops in the field without the wisdom of experience.
“It’s been an eye opening experience to see how everything comes together from the oporders [operational orders] and frag-os [fragmentary orders]. Having never done this, I would have given orders and not known exactly what I was asking,” said Stalling. “You don’t want to give an order without having been there and having done that yourself.”
Khaki FTX builds camaraderie within and between the Chiefs’ Mess and Wardroom. Some would say it is an “unofficial” objective of the exercise. The isolated, close quarters environment of Camp Shelby offers the khakis an opportunity to really get to know one another. For training purposes, the seasoned veterans will usually step aside and challenge the newer guys to step up and take charge. This was the case for Lt. Christopher James who took charge as the khaki FTX platoon commander.
“As chiefs and officers we usually just work with those we have business with. There’s nothing like working side by side with fellow officers and the chiefs’ mess like this out here in the field. This is an opportunity to make sure we fine tune our skills before we take it to the full level battalion FTX in October, said Lt. Christopher James, Bravo Company commander.
NMCB 74 recently completed a change-of-command where they received Commanding Officer Cmdr. Richard Hayes, III and Command Master Chief Robert Graves in July. For them, this was the best time to really get to know and evaluate the leadership of the battalion.
“This [Khaki FTX] has given us an opportunity to see what scenarios we need to work on ourselves with some good lessons learned,” said Hayes. “I’m real pleased with the motivation and the energy everyone has brought even though the weather has been tough here in August, and from what I’ve seen I think we’ll hit our FTX hard and do a great job!”