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    Navy Seabees harness earth’s natural resources, sustain Afghan region for years to come

    Navy Seabees Harness earth's resources, sustain Afghan region for years to come

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Carmichael | Equipment Operator 1st Class Jon M. Wawrek from Syracuse, N.Y., assigned to Naval...... read more read more

    KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 harnessed a natural source of water from 680-feet below the earth’s surface March 17, 2012 in the Panjwai district of Zangabad, Afghanistan, to create a well that will sustain U.S. and allied forces there for years to come.

    Immediate plans for the well are to provide water for facilities such as showers, sinks, and toilets. Water for those facilities is currently being trucked in by local hired contractors.

    Future plans could include treating the water to make it safe to drink. Currently, bottled water is brought in by the truckload to sustain all who live and work on the forward operating base.

    In addition to improving the quality of life and making the FOB self-sustaining, eliminating the need for contractors and truckloads of bottled water will free up U.S. money that can be utilized elsewhere.

    This well does not require a man-made pump to bring water to the surface. Instead, it is pushed to the surface at 70 gallons per minute as a result of its own pressure built up beneath the earth. This self-pressurization classifies it as a flowing artesian well, according to hydrogeologist Graham H. Johnston of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

    Johnston deployed from Savannah, Ga., to Afghanistan as a site representative of USACE and subject matter expert on well construction. His role is to assist in water well development by pinpointing the best aquifer zones to be screened by the well and to run pumping tests to evaluate well performance. Johnston assists in areas of Afghanistan as dictated by the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment.

    This well water should be a welcomed quality of life improvement for people using these facilities as the current source is known to be contaminated with diesel fuel. Seabees reported a distinct odor coming from the water and permeating their skin causing irritation, dryness, redness, and burning. It was discovered that the contractors were using diesel transport trucks to bring water for the showers and bathrooms.

    The medical problems associated with it have gradually tapered off, and the practice was supposedly halted although some Seabees claim to occasionally smell the fuel in the bathrooms and showers.

    Petty Officer 1st Class Jenesia A. Ordonia from Cape Girardeax, Mo., is a hospital corpsman assigned to the water-well detachment to tend to the medical needs of the Seabees. She also assists the Army medics at the battalion aid station on the FOB.

    “I’m getting a lot of valuable trauma experience,” said Ordonia, who has seen over 20 casualties, ranging from bullet wounds to severed limbs and fatalities in the 6 weeks she’s been in Zangabad.

    Casualties brought to the forward operating base battle aid station are from U.S. Army Special Forces, Afghan National Army, and local civilians including a few of the 16 victims of a shooting, allegedly by a U.S. Army soldier, an incident that happened not far from FOB Zangabad earlier this month.

    Known as the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban, the Panjwai district is a hotbed for the insurgency. The FOB, which the Navy Seabees share with U.S. Army, ANA, and Afghan National Civil Order Police, has been the target of rocket propelled grenade attacks while firefights and improvised explosive device detonations are a common occurrence within earshot.

    “Getting materials and supplies has been difficult due to the location,” said detachment officer in charge, Ensign Andrew B. Anderson from Jacksonville, Fla. The Seabees had a two week setback early in the mission due to a downed well rig and need for supplies.

    “This is the first deployment for most of these guys,” said Tower-1 Leader, Petty Officer 1st Class Jon M. Wawrek from Syracuse, N.Y. “The crew is constantly working, and we’ve got to keep being reminded what day it is; and that’s a good thing.”

    Amenities are few. Mail is significantly delayed due to the location, and the Seabees always look forward to packages from friends and family as well as items that they might be able to order online such as portable video game consoles. There is a small store that carries a very limited supply of toiletries, snack foods and various other items.

    A Morale, Welfare, and Recreation room includes 10 computers with internet access and five telephones for everyone on the FOB. Use is limited to 20 minutes at a time. There are a couple of gyms with weight lifting and cardio equipment that get a lot of use by Seabees and soldiers assigned here.

    There is one tent for males and one for females in which the Seabees sleep in on cots. This leaves no room for privacy, but everyone has learned to live and work well together according to Constructionman Steven R. Hubler from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., one of the Seabees assigned to detachment water-well. When workload permits people find some degree of solitude underneath a set of headphones connected to a portable music player or getting lost in the pages of a book.

    “Music, books, and movies are what most of us keep ourselves entertained with,” said Hubler who is on his third deployment yet his first in a contingency environment.

    “It hasn’t really been tough yet,” stated Hubler. “I know it will get worse when the heat kicks in, but I’ll do fine, and so will the rest of the crew.”

    Climate and other factors have added to the difficulties endured by the detachment. A multitude of heavy sandstorms, four consecutive days of freezing rain, and frequent drastic temperature changes from one day to the next are all part of life out here.

    “These guys have met all the challenges we’ve seen out here. They’ve done their name proud and added to the Seabee legacy,” said detachment assistant officer in charge, Chief Petty Officer Toby A. Davis from Panama City, Fla., whose tone of voice expresses pride in his Seabees and the work they’ve done. “These are the guys and girls that people are going to be talking about 10 to 15 years from now.”

    This well was the first of this deployment for the detachment. They will soon gather all their supplies, materials, equipment, and personal belonging and relocate to another site with even more primitive living conditions. Following completion of a well there, the Seabees will pick up and move to a new location to begin the process all over again.

    Despite the dangers, challenges, separation from family, and lack of amenities, the Seabees remain positive and enthusiastic about the deployment.

    “It’s been fun. This is what we train for. This is what we do. I think everybody here feels a great sense of job satisfaction when we complete a well and there’s fresh water coming up out of the ground,” said Tower-2 leader, Petty Officer 1st Class Brice A. Nash from East Wenatchee, Wash.

    Detachment water-well is one of multiple detachments that NMCB-11 has operating throughout the country.

    Homeported in Gulfport, Miss., NMCB-11 is deployed to Afghanistan to conduct general, mobility, survivability engineering operations, defensive operations, Afghan National Army partnering and detachment of units in combined/joint operations area - Afghanistan in order to enable the neutralization of the insurgency and support improved governance and stability operations.



    Date Taken: 03.17.2012
    Date Posted: 03.19.2012 06:05
    Story ID: 85438

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