By Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Fahey, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3May 10, 2013
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, California - More than 550 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif., kicked off a field training exercise (FTX) May 9 to battle test their collective motto of Construimus, Battuimus or "We Build, We Fight" at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif.
Lasting three weeks and stretching across much of Fort Hunter Liggett's 160,000-plus acres of rugged terrain, FTX primarily tests NMCB 3's ability to enter hostile locations, build assigned construction projects and defend against enemy attacks.
"The FTX is what we use to evaluate our skills and perfect our tactical proficiencies," said NMCB 3 Command Master Chief Percy Trent. "This is our step-off point. We need to be ready for deployment and this exercise makes that happen."
Seabee deployments are task-tailored and include missions ranging from drilling water wells in Cambodia to working in Afghanistan alongside combat Marines.
"We need to ensure our tactical skills reflect the same focus we place in our construction abilities," added Trent.
These contingency-based missions put high stakes on a battalion whose average age ranges between 19 and 20 years old. These men and women are trained in their basic area of construction and engineering, then receive defensive combat training based on the Marine Corps.
During FTX, Seabees demonstrate to evaluators from Naval Construction Group 1 how to safely operate the M4 and M16 semi-automatic rifles, the M240B and Mk2 .50-caliber machine guns and the Mk19 grenade launcher. These weapons systems are employed during a variety of scenarios during a multitude of operations all demonstrating NMCB 3's ability to develop warfighters, empower them to embrace an "always ready" mindset, and deploy them forward to dangerous areas.
"Evaluators visit the battalion to help us train on everything ranging from chocks on vehicles - obvious safety issue of course - to the way we employee our crew serve weapons," said NMCB 3 Executive Officer Susanne Wienrich. "It's a total evaluation of everything we do, and that's good. We need that. We are trusted to do a very specific and difficult job. It's important we do it right."
Identified by the reflective white bands around their uniform hats, more than 80 NCG 1 Seabees evaluate each block of training including safety, environmental, medical and health concerns; defensive combat tactics and convoy operations; and camp setup, communications, construction techniques, and supply replenishments in the field.
"If they fail, we fail," said NCG 1 Safety Evaluator Builder 1st Class Joseph McFadden. "That's our motto. We aren't here to mess with them or make things hard. We want them to pass."
To ensure NMCB 3's training and evaluation is as complete as possible, NCG 1 uses "aggressors." These Seabees act as the enemy, shooting blanks to attack NMCB 3's defensive patrols, convoys or guards manning the simulated base's entry control point. All troops must correctly employ the correct defensive tactics that successfully displays their knowledge of the rules of engagement, safety and other criteria fundamental to protecting themselves, their site and their shipmates.
Aggressors test Seabees' reactive capabilities by ambushing NMCB 3 during defensive foot patrols, convoys, acting as snipers, and posing as civilians trying to gain access to the base.
The FTX scenarios are realistic and require focused decision making by all troops. Passing FTX is on par with some of the most arduous training events conducted in the military. Unlike much of the Navy, Seabees manage small and large weapons systems, operate armored tactical vehicles and employ large-load construction equipment in hostile environments. A battalion performs these things simultaneously, turning the entire process of completing either FTX or a deployment into a meticulous ballet of purposeful action, intelligent decision-making and poise under fire.
"When a battalion passes FTX, I'm proud they can go out, do their job and return home safe," said McFadden. "It's tough out here but it's tougher on deployment. This is where we get it right. We are all Seabees. We are expected to succeed and will always get the job done."
NMCB 3 is conducting its final graded field training exercise, testing the battalions overall readiness through a variety of realistic scenarios encountered during routine Seabee deployments.
The Seabee battalion provides commanders and Navy component commanders with combat ready warfighters capable of general engineering, construction and limited combat engineering across the full range of military operations.
Fort Hunter Liggett is the largest installation in the Army Reserve, with more than 160,000 acres of mountains, valleys, rivers, plains and forests. It provides ideal maneuver areas and state of the art training facilities for active and Reserve Army units, and for all components of the Department Defense and several allied nations.