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NMCB 74 Seabees Lead the Way as Camp Leatherneck Expands

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS091027-11
Release Date: 10/27/2009 12:52:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Ryan G. Wilber, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 Public Affairs

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (NNS) -- Camp Leatherneck is expanding, and the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74 began leading the way for expansion in September 2009 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The expansion project requires the Seabees to go outside the perimeter of the existing camp to construct security measures.

Seabees have commenced work on the first phase of this expansion, which entails clearing land and establishing a perimeter. The expansion project calls for 650 acres of desert to be cleared, which ultimately quadruples the camp's size. The increase in space will be a welcome change for Seabees and Marines currently working in close quarters at the camp.

According to Ensign Eric Julius, Camp Leatherneck expansion project manager, the project will allow the Marine Expeditionary Brigade Commander to have more room to put people and a little more breathing room for operations.

The preliminary steps for any camp expansion always include putting security measures in place. Seabees are erecting three miles of numerous barriers and also have up-armored their heavy construction equipment and work in full battle gear.

Working "outside the wire," as the unsecured area outside the base is called, and in the desert sand agitated by strong winds, causes extra burden not just on the equipment but on the construction crews.

"We have to not only do our job, but pay attention to what's going on. Everyone has to be more vigilant while they are operating," said Equipment Operator 2nd Class Matthew Romo, Leatherneck expansion project supervisor.

The combination of heavy armor and the tough environment causes extra strain on the equipment, so in response construction mechanics have to be on-site throughout each shift to provide maintenance and repairs.

"The dust and heat chokes the engines, and weight has been added to the chassis, but the engine hasn't changed," said Senior Chief Builder Michael Lopez, NMCB 74 operations chief.

Amid the harsh conditions, the crews put in 12 hour shifts, six days a week, pushing dirt and placing wire that is sharp as a razor. Undaunted by the magnitude of work his crew has undertaken, Romo demonstrates a feeling of confidence.

"The project is a very important part of this camp. As far as Seabees go, it is a great experience for junior equipment operators and senior equipment operators. Here they get to fine tune their skills and show everyone how good they can do," said Romo.

In respect to size and importance of the project, Lopez stated that this is the largest Alfa-type project for the battalion in recent history. Romo expressed a sense of importance and pride when referring to the expansion.

"It's a huge project. It's very important to get it done and get it done on time," said Romo. "I am glad to be part of such an important project, and lucky to have the crew I have. They are all good workers."

Once the security measures are in place, units in the camp will reorganize and spread out, allowing Camp Leatherneck to operate more efficiently.

For more news from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, visit www.navy.mil/local/nmcb74/.

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