News: NMCB 74 completes mount out exercise
Story by Chief Petty Officer Jason Penny
CAMP SHIELDS, Okinawa, Japan — Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 completed a mount out exercise, Sept. 28. The exercise is a test to see how quickly the battalion can respond to a situation that requires the capabilities of the naval construction force. Personnel from the 30th Naval Construction Regiment were on hand to evaluate the battalion’s performance during the exercise.
Also known as embark, the battalion must prepare heavy equipment, tools and personnel for shipment aboard military aircraft to be transported into the crisis area within 48 hours.
During the exercise a mount out control center, or MOCC, was stood up to direct all of the different elements required to identify the equipment to be shipped, stage it, prepare it for shipment and finally transport it in a convoy to the nearby Kadena Air Base where it would be loaded onto military aircraft in the event of a real world operation. Alfa company, which maintains the battalion’s heavy equipment, works closely with the embark staff to ensure the proper preparation and movement of the required assets to the affected area under the direction of the MOCC.
The exercise was carried out under the order of NMCB 74’s commanding officer Cmdr. David McAlister who said the exercise is important to undertake for two reasons. First, it ensures that the battalion is ready and able to respond wherever and whenever it is required. “That response could be everything ranging from major combat operations to disaster recovery/humanitarian assistance,” said McAllister.
During the battalion’s previous Pacific theater deployment, they were called upon to provide support to the people of Pakistan after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck the Kashmir region, Oct. 8, 2005. The scenario for this exercise is similar in that the battalion must prepare to provide assistance to a small island nation in the aftermath of an earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
The other reason the exercise is important, according to McAlister, is that it makes sure individuals are trained and familiar with the different aspects involved in carrying out this type of response. There are different steps in the process including putting basic supplies on pallets, washing vehicles, collecting weight and balance data for each piece of equipment and prioritizing the order of shipment in a staging area. The equipment and pallets are then organized into “chalks” which represent the order in which they will be loaded onto the aircraft. Each element requires training in specific procedures with a high level of attention to detail. “It’s a combination of everything from the unit level down to the individuals,” McAlister said.
Master Chief Constructionman Al Cadena, operations chief for the 30th NCR and one of the evaluators for the exercise, said that he was impressed with the engagement level of the battalion, particularly Alfa company and the embark staff. “Those guys really were the backbone of the exercise and were really important in it being successful,” Cadena said.
McAlister said that one of his guiding principles is that the battalion should always be preparing for the future. A large part of that preparation involves training his sailors during exercises like this one to give them better skill sets and experience so that the battalion “can respond where needed for the supported commanders.”
The Gulfport, Miss., based battalion is currently operating forward throughout the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) supporting U.S. naval and joint forces under the command and control of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment.