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NMCB 18 Builds Better Conditions for Marines in Iraq

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS061222-04
Release Date: 12/22/2006 10:10:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Elizabeth Merriam, Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Group

AL ASAD, Iraq (NNS) -- Navy Reservists with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 18, Delta Company, Fort Lewis, Wash., arrived in Iraq in September to improve the quality of life for Marines there. And that is exactly what they contine to do three months later.

"As the Marines work with Iraqi army and Iraqi police and go to dangerous locations to clear out trouble, the Seabees are right beside them building and fixing," Lt. Cmdr. Michael Miner, NMCB 18 executive officer, said. "This makes them better at doing their jobs, and that is satisfying,"

Thanks to the work of the Seabees, Miner said, fewer Marines serving with coalition ground combat forces in Iraq have to get by with cold showers, partially protected living quarters and lack of comfortable places to sleep.

“We’re here to support the Marines and their needs on the combat field by providing them with our construction skills,” Builder 1st Class Loren Drivdahl said. “They’ve always been real supportive of us. They’re always really happy to see us when we show up, because they know something good is going to happen. From improved living conditions, a safer place to be, or hot water for a shower, they really enjoy the things the Seabees can provide them.”

NMCB 18 is currently assembling 22 Southwest Asia (SWA) huts -- preconstructed living spaces shipped to the building site and put together in a short amount of time.

“These huts improve living conditions. They go from a tent to a hardened heated or air-conditioned building," said Builder 1st Class Cort Souther, the crew leader for the job. "Within an hour we can prefab a whole hut, it takes about 30 minutes for the walls and about another 30 minutes for the trusses.”

The Seabees already have built plenty of these semi-permanent quarters for Marines in Iraq.

“We recently completed an order for 49 SWA huts,” Drivdahl said. “We built a dozen truckloads of walls, 450 trusses and 98 doors. Since we’ve arrived here three months ago we’ve pounded over 4 tons of nails. We’ve just gone through a lot of production here.”

Other tasks for the Seabees include improvements to existing buildings, such as electric and air conditioning installaiton.

“We went out to one of our FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) with a bunch of materials including water heaters and fixtures for showers,” Builder 2nd Class Gary Jones said. “We got out there and there weren’t even doors on the building. It was cold out and the guys were basically sleeping in open air."

The Seabees went to work building roofs, installing doors and light fixtures, and providing hot water heaters, Jones said.

"They just couldn’t believe the Seabees could do so much in such a short time," he added.

In addition to improving the quality of life for Marines, the Seabees have offered tips to Iraqis seeking to improve their own infrastructure.

“We took a trip to a small combat outpost to help out. While we were there, we showed the Iraqi police some of the basics for our job,” Jones said. “We were showing them how to read a tape measure and how to use a hand saw, a lot of things they have never had exposure to. It’s a nice feeling knowing that we're helping everyone else out. That’s the key thing right there.”

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