KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – A team of Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 15, assigned to Detachment 4, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan, completed a project in four months that rectified approximately 800 life, health and safety hazards for a subordinate task force.
The existing infrastructure, which included berthing and operation capabilities, was upgraded through a series of six-month to one-year deployment improvements required by each successive command. Those improvements simply added more pipe or wires to already overloaded circuits. These were substandard repairs that eventually led to numerous LHS issues and the building’s condemnation.
The effects of eviction would require a CJSOTF-A task force to relocate their headquarters and operations center at the beginning of the 2013 fighting season, severely reducing the fighting capacity.
Seabee teams assigned to CJSOTF-A and the task force were responsible for cooperating to ensure the completion of the building’s renovation within the anticipated timeline - with minimal interruptions to operations. Because the team found literally hundreds of LHS violations and expected to find more during the time-sensitive labor, meeting the deadline was not guaranteed.
“Due to the numerous problems, they were under the threat of being evicted,” said Utilitiesman 1st Class Daniel Cotter. “We just couldn’t let that happen, so we’re taking care of some safety issues.”
Cotter explained the most hazardous deficiencies included exposed wires, overloaded panels, broken stairs, and even stairs without handrails.
“One of the biggest things we’re doing is upgrading the wiring and piping inside to keep it from being exposed to the elements,” said Builder 1st Class Heath Younts. “That way, it prevents wiring and piping from becoming a safety issue and lasts longer.”
Younts noted the Seabees are ensuring the building is structurally sound in addition to providing modern conveniences.
“...We added three-way switches to the rooms,” said Younts. “That way if the occupants want to turn on just one light in their room instead of all of them, they have that ability. Previously, they didn’t have the option. It used to burn a lot of energy.”
Utilitiesman 1st Class Anthony Moore says although his team has a lot of work ahead of them, the work is essentially repetitive as most of the problems are recurrent throughout the structure.
“Many of the problems are consistent throughout the whole facility,” said Moore. “Now we’re going through and completing those upgrades.”
Moore noted the building’s age contributes to most of its problems, but the CJSOTF-A Seabees upgraded the electrical system, repaired dangerous stairs, and installed numerous handrails.
By applying their expertise, Seabees were able to raise the facility’s standards, which allowed units to keep their original office building.
“A lot of these guys do the work people never see,” said Moore. “By saving them from being evicted, it saved a lot of headaches and kept them on task and on schedule.”
The team finished within the anticipated deadline and demonstrated professionalism in cooperating with the Army to complete the complex task.
“The flawless coordination between DET OIC and the task force command in presenting a unified front to the GSB,” said Construction Electrician Chief Ed Morse, Seabee liaison officer. “Allowed the time required to develop a reasonable plan of corrective action.”
Many Seabees understand that their work may not be entirely noticeable at first; however, their impacts are long lasting.
“I like knowing that you can do little things to help improve people’s quality of life,” said Younts. “It feels great.”
Construction Electrician 1st Class James Conway added, “It’s always nice to hear from the Army personnel - that stay in the rooms - how good of a job we did.”
The Army Special Forces personnel that largely comprise the task force were nothing but impressed with the Seabees’ work. The Seabees harnessed personnel and assets from the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and civilian agencies to mitigate those structural, safety, and health risks that led to the headquarters’ condemnation.
The task force director, Maj. Scott Morley, stated, “CEC Morse and his team have been truly impressive. To go from a building condemnation and a battalion-sized unit ready to be thrown out of its headquarters in mid-March, to passing a USFOR-A [United States Forces – Afghanistan] level inspection with flying colors just four months later, speaks volumes about their professionalism, work ethic and motivation the Seabees brought to the project. We literally would have been without a home right now, was it not for these hard-working sailors.”
First Sgt. Frank Roman, the senior enlisted adviser of the task force’s support center, added, “The Seabees made this project happen, period. These guys and gals never complained once. ‘Never’ and ‘can’t’ are just not part of their vocabulary. In some of the most challenging conditions [routinely working in temperatures over 100 degrees], the Seabees consistently provided solutions to every problem they encountered. They are true professionals.”
The NMCB 15 is currently mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan and is an expeditionary element of U.S. naval forces that support various units worldwide, through national force readiness, civil engineering, humanitarian assistance and building and maintaining infrastructure.
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