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NMCB 40 Seabees Join Relief Effort in Indonesia

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050113-11
Release Date: 1/13/2005 8:00:00 PM

By Journalist 2nd Class Barbara Silkwood, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 40 Public Affairs

OKINAWA, Japan (NNS) -- The first group of Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 40 arrived in Indonesia Jan. 11 to join the ranks of U.S. military troops currently providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the wake of the massive devastation that has resulted in the deaths of more than 150,000 people and displaced a million more.

The battalion, forward deployed to Okinawa, Japan, could potentially send a majority of its personnel and equipment in support of Joint Task Force 536, serving with Marines from the 3rd Marine Division, and Sailors from U.S. 7th Fleet.

Fifty Seabees embarked aboard USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) will be focused on contingency construction, road clearing and runway repair projects, while the Sailors and Marines they accompany will use their equipment to deliver fresh water and provide other aid to the victims of the tsunami.

After transiting to Indonesia aboard the ship, the Seabees will push ashore, and will be able to establish a base camp if additional Seabees arrive to build up their capabilities.

The detachment will carry a sufficient supply of fuel, medical supplies, road clearing equipment, electrical power generating equipment and the necessary tools to sustain them throughout the duration of the operation. Fort McHenry personnel will provide them with most of their food and water.

Prior to departing for Indonesia, all personnel were briefed on applicable health and safety precautions, including protective measures to prevent against the spread of disease. Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Mario Portillo, NMCB 40's preventative medicine technician, explained that the sheer scale of the disaster presents significant medical challenges.

"The threat comes in the form of typhoid, malaria, dengue fever, cholera, dysentery and other waterborne diseases," he said.

Portillo stressed the importance of maintaining the highest possible level of cleanliness and re-emphasized the need to follow all prescribed medical procedures accordingly.

"You must take care of yourselves first before you can help anyone else because the more of you that become ill, the less effective the unit as a whole will be in providing assistance to others," Portillo said.

Among the first group to leave was Construction Electrician 2nd Class Jonathan Nelson of Bravo Company.

"We have a difficult task ahead of us that will prove to be both physically and mentally demanding on everyone involved," Nelson said. "If we are able to put the situation into perspective and remember the cause we are supporting, it will be easier to deal with what we see and hear while we are there."

Over the next few weeks, NMCB 40 will likely deploy more Seabees forward to effect humanitarian assistance for the people of Indonesia.

For related news on Navy tsunami relief operations, visit the Focus on Tsunami Relief Operations page at

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