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Afghanistan-Bound Seabees Practice Runway Repair

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070209-19
Release Date: 2/9/2007 2:27:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Carmichael Yepez, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3

OKINAWA, Japan (NNS) -- Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 attended a three-day rapid runway repair (RRR) training course Jan. 23-25 in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The training course provided Seabees the necessary skills to repair damaged runways.

“We are going to an Air Force base in Afghanistan, so this training is going to benefit us in case the base comes under attack and the runway is damaged,” said Builder 3rd Class Shawn Williams.

During the first two days of training, the Seabees were divided into three crews with different assigned tasks: the damage-assessment team, the crater crew and the matting crew. The teams learned how to first evaluate damage to a runway and then utilize the different repair methods to patch holes or craters on runways.

The training required Seabees to repair three craters ranging in size from 15 to 30 feet in diameter.

“I was on the crater crew,” said Steelworker 3rd Class David Aanenson. “We first had to dig a crater and then backfill the crater again.”

On the final day of the exercise, the crews came together to practice what each team learned. The damage assessment team was on the scene first. They went out on the runway to evaluate the damage and inspect it for unexploded ordnance.

“Safety is always our first priority,” said Chief Utilitiesman James Sherry, officer in charge of the RRR course. “That is why the damage-assessment team has to go out first and ensure there are no unexploded bombs. If they find some, they coordinate their removal with an [EOD] team.”

Once the runway was safe, it quickly became a beehive of activity with more than 20 pieces of civil engineer support equipment (CESE) working to repair the giant craters.

“It is a fast tempo exercise,” said Utilitiesman 1st Class James Marquez. “We have six crews and more than 50 Seabees operating front end loaders, dump trucks, scrapers and different CESE to repair the damage.”

The training evolution required the Seabees to repair the runway quickly since runways are one of the major arteries through which support arrives.

“The work was non-stop,” Builder 3rd Class Michael Trusty said. “We only had three hours to finish the job, so we kept busy the entire time loading trucks.”

After the holes were filled, scrapers and rollers compacted the dirt making the craters level with the runway. The final touches came from the matting crew who assembled fiberglass and alloy mats to place over the patched holes.

“The matting is the final step once the craters have been backfilled,” said Trusty. He added that the matting was assembled by locking smaller pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. The huge mats are then placed and anchored over the craters to complete the operation.

“Most of our guys have done RRR before, so this is more like a refresher course,” said Sherry. “But the most important aspect of the exercise is teamwork and coordination. Our Seabees did a great job and, thanks to their combined efforts, they were able to complete the mission.”

Seabees from NMCB 3 are currently on a six-month deployment to the Far East in support of construction operations. NMCB 3’s detachment special operation forces are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in February.

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