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NMCB 7 Deploys to Sri Lanka in Support of Disaster-Relief Efforts

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050112-07
Release Date: 1/12/2005 11:00:00 PM

By Journalist 1st Class Jeffrey J. Pierce, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 Public Affairs

CAMP COVINGTON, Guam (NNS) -- Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 forward deployed to Guam are headed to the tsunami-ravaged region in Sri Lanka to aid in disaster recovery efforts.

Approximately 100 personnel from NMCB 7 are deploying to Sri Lanka throughout the week of Jan. 9 on aircraft from the Military Airlift Command out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

When the original order came down, personnel from NMCB 7 immediately went into 48 hour mount-out procedures. Crews worked around the clock in alternating 12-hour shifts, containerizing and palletizing the supplies they would need in upcoming months, while others cleaned, serviced and lined up pieces of civil engineer support equipment (CESE) crucial to the mission. CESE includes bulldozers, forklifts, hummers, dump trucks, lighting plants, water pumps and purification units, generators and a host of other equipment that allow the Seabees from NMCB 7 to be a self-sustained unit.

NMCB 7 will be tasked by Combined Support Force (CSF) 536, which has an engineer operations cell located in U-Tapao, Thailand, and will coordinate the engineering efforts in the region. More specifically, CSF 536 will have a Combined Support Group located in Sri Lanka who will have direct operational control over NMCB 7 and other units in the area.

"Our primary mission could include controlled demolition, debris removal, minor repair and cleaning of main supply routes," NMCB 7 Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Michael T. Wolfersberger said. "We have the manpower, equipment and 'Can Do' attitude to take on a variety of tasks. We will be limited only by the direction we receive from the Combined Support Force 536 commander."

Wolfersberger believes the Seabees will be able to do what they do best.

"This is one of the primary missions that Seabees are trained and prepared to execute," Wolfersberger said. "Our presence in-theater gives the unified commander a ready response force for this type of disaster. Seabees have always been a critical element in disaster response, including Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Ivan and many other disasters worldwide."

Those going know the task ahead of them and are glad they can help.

"I feel it's great that I get to go there and help people," said Equipment Operator 1st Class Douglas Pojecky. "This is what we train to do. We have the equipment and the experience. We're one of the few units specifically designed to do this. Whenever we get a chance to do it, we do it well."

When entering any evolution, safety is always an issue. This will be no different.

"One of my primary concerns is the safety of our Seabees with hazards from all the debris, but also the risk of disease," Wolfersberger said. "I feel we are fully prepared for foreseeable issues as best we can, but one thing you can't prepare for is the level of human suffering. I think with the massive destruction and loss of life, it could certainly have an impact on people's spirits."

As the first images of the devastation caused by the tsunami were broadcast around the world, Seabees from NMCB 7 were visibly moved and awaited the opportunity to assist in relief efforts.

"I'm glad that we get to go and help the people. I feel in my heart that I was meant to go," said Storekeeper 2nd Class (SCW) Shannon Luttrul. "I don't want the sadness to consume me, so I'll just tell myself that there's nothing we can do about the people who have already perished, but we can help the people who survived."

NMCB 7 is homeported in Gulfport, Miss., and is forward deployed to Guam and Iraq.

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