By Mrs. Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)June 28, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The U.S. Navy descended upon Fort Leonard Wood Friday in the form of hundreds of Seabees for a two-day battalion-level command post exercise.
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 15, headquartered in Belton, Mo., was on post to prepare for their 2013 deployment to Afghanistan. NMCB15 is made up of 550 Seabees spread across seven reserve centers: St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, Mo., Wichita, Kan., Des Moines, Iowa, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Omaha, Neb.
"This gives us the opportunity to bring in nearly our entire battalion," said Lt. Commander Douglas Berry, NMCB15 executive officer. "It's important for us to get together and work as a team. We don't have the luxury of working together every day like an active-duty battalion does. We are supposed to have all the capacities of an active-duty battalion."
Berry said while on post the reservist were tested with several different training
"We simulate a hostile environment. Our Seabee motto is 'We Build, We Fight.' So, we are going into a simulated country -- a hostile area with aggressors."
The Seabees also practiced the constructions skills they will need for missions in Afghanistan.
"We are a construction company. We can do complex construction and rapid runway repair. We set up our defensive perimeters, we build, and then we protect what we build. Lastly, we take it all down and come home," Berry said.
Lt. Russell Becker, an active-duty Seabee serving as the NMCB15 training officer, said having their reservists on Fort Leonard Wood is absolutely critical to the success of their two-week annual training scheduled for this fall and their upcoming deployment.
"We have a lot of inexperienced people. We get a lot of new people coming in. This gives us the opportunity to not only build camaraderie, but put them in a training environment that we are going into. We have companies establishing their command and control, command operations center. As companies filter in they learn how to receive and transmit information," Becker said. "I do this 24/7, 365 days a year. These guys do it 38 days a year. Sometimes the first time they see each other is when they go out on their annual training. That's for two weeks. That's not good if that is the first time they are meeting. There are three companies; each of them has done their own exercise. This is the culmination where the entire battalion gets together, and we get to do it all together."
Becker's job was to make sure the Seabees were challenged with true-to-life situations they might experience while deployed.
"My staff provides real-life training scenarios where we have civilians come to the wire looking for food, or come to the entry control point looking for medical, or a pregnant woman that is having some issues. We teach them how to handle these situations. We will also have hostile sniper fire to see how they react to that. A lot of these are the real scenarios that they are going to get in country."
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Catherine Minard was grateful to be on Fort Leonard Wood for training. As a tax examiner for the Department of the Treasury, Minard values the hands-on training time she can get with the 2.5-meter satellite dish/antenna she is responsible for operating.
"We can transmit and receive with this equipment. Basically, we send and receive messages across the ocean with this. It's mobile. It can collapse down into boxes and transported on the back of a truck. It takes about two-and-a-half to three hours to set this up with a good team and about the same time to take it down," Minard said. "If we don't do this now when we get in country, we won't know what to do. It's very important to learn how to use and fix the equipment. We also learn to work as a team."
Berry said Fort Leonard Wood is an ideal location for NCMB15 to meet and train.
"It's centrally located for just about all of our detachments. We can bus everybody here. Fort Leonard Wood always has what we need and they are extremely accommodating with providing equipment, loaning us weapons and barracks to stay in. It's a great place," Berry said.
"I couldn't be happier. It's critical training going into our mobilization. Without the
support of the Fort Leonard Wood staff and commands, this wouldn't have been successful."