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Seabees Tackle Dirt to Keep River Flowing in Philippines

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070627-14
Release Date: 6/27/2007 5:38:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Olay, Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

TABACO CITY, Philippines (NNS) -- Seabees from Naval Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 and Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) began clearing thousands of tons of dirt and debris from a portion of the Tagas River in the city of Tabaco June 21.

The flood control effort -- one of many projects the Navy is taking the lead on during Pacific Partnership 2007 -- comes as a response to typhoon-spawned landslides that clogged the river late last year.

Through Pacific Partnership, projects like this are being completed throughout the Bicol Region, as well as select locations in the southern Philippines including Jolo and Cotabato. This mission reflects long-standing ties between the United States and the Philippines, as well as the continued commitment to work together to assist the people of the Philippines with this humanitarian outreach.

Using a bulldozer, a front-end loader, and three five-ton dump trucks, the team of seven Seabees have been removing from 250 to 300 cubic yards of dirt and debris from the site each day, according to Equipment Operator 1st Class (SCW) George Petrofski, the project’s supervisor.

“Thus far, I’m pretty happy,” said Petrofski about his team’s early progress. “Being in construction, you get to see the fruits of your labor directly. This river was completely backed up when we got here, and now it’s open.”

The flood control project began to take shape when Petrofski and other members of a pre-deployment survey team came to the region and began assessing how the Navy could best help with the community’s needs. During that assessment, local officials pointed out flood control of the Tagas was a top priority, according to Petrofski.

“The U.S. [Navy] has technology that can help us,” said Capt. Angel Gerapusco, team leader for the Tabaco City division of the Army Engineers of the Philippines. “We appreciate the presence of the U.S. government and our partnership with this type of job.”

The Seabees plan for cleaning up the river is simple.

“We come to the site each morning, we set up, and we go straight to work,” said Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Shawn Pope. “It’s ‘turn and burn’ to get everything done -- solid, non-stop work.”

“Turning and burning” entails a repetitive, three-step process the Seabees use with each passing hour during the work day. First, the bulldozer scrapes along the river bed, which compacts the dirt into large piles. The front-end loader then scoops up the material for deposit into the dump trucks and completes the process by hauling the cargo approximately three miles to a local dumpsite. Petrofski estimates the Seabees will complete the project in early July.

Though the hours are long and the routine is unwavering, Petrofski feels there is no shortage of morale among his team members. He credits this to the throngs of local onlookers, most of them children, who have been gathering at the job site since day one of the project.

“We walk around and everybody’s always so happy to see [us],” said Petrofski. “They bend over backwards to make you feel welcome in the community. It really warms your heart when something like that happens.”

Other members of the Seabee team have also noticed the outpouring of appreciation from the community.

“They love us over here, and the hospitality here is just unbelievable,” said Pope, who is participating in this kind of project for the first time with his fellow Seabees. “Everyone is so grateful, and it makes me feel good knowing I’m actually doing something to help another community.”

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