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NMCB 7 Paving the Way in Jacksonville; Improves Military Landing Facility

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS110914-02

By Chief Mass Communication Specilaist Yan Kennon, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- A detachment of Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 began landing facility upgrades at Whitehouse Outlying Field (OLF) Jacksonville, Fla. Sept. 12.

A detachment of Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 begin landing facility upgrades at Whitehouse Outlying Field (OLF), a Jacksonville facility configured to simulate carrier conditions for new pilots, those returning to flight duty and those preparing for deployments.

During the scheduled one month project, requested by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast, the Seabees of NMCB 7 will repave more than five miles of taxiways, access and perimeter roads at Whitehouse OLF. In addition to repaving requirements, the Seabees will remove nine pre-existing culverts and replace with 24 inch piping, to improve drainage runoff around the facility runway.

Whitehouse OLF began life as a training field during World War II and has been a vital part of naval aviation for many years. In 1999, the field became the domain of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, after the closure of the former Cecil Field Naval Air Station. Over the past three years, air traffic has more than doubled at the facility, where carrier-based aircraft practice the patterns, approaches and landing techniques needed to land aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, one of only two such facilities on the east coast.

"As part of the construction readiness training portion of NMCB 7's homeport, this project is a great opportunity for our Seabees to gain paving experience in a real world setting," said Ens. Daniel Cloutier, from Placerville, Calif., Detachment Jacksonville's Officer in Charge (OIC). "The added dynamic of working with an experienced contractor provides us with valuable tools and knowledge that we can carry with us throughout our remaining homeport period and into future deployment tasking. The project site presents challenges that allow our Seabees to improve their skills in a range of conditions, and upon completion of our tasking here at Whitehouse OLF, our Seabees will have the confidence and technical capability to produce high quality asphalt pavement, no matter the location or conditions," said Cloutier.

The 20-person detachment, comprised of Equipment Operators and Construction Mechanics of the Battalion's ALFA Company, departed their homeport of Gulfport, Miss. on Aug. 29. The project is projected to encompass 356 man-days of direct labor at a cost of approximately $928K.

"The high summer temperatures here in Jacksonville, along with the extreme temperatures of fresh asphalt, present challenges to our crew, especially when conducting the manual labor portions of the project," said Equipment Operator 2nd Class Derek Willis, from Waco, Texas, Detachment Jacksonville Project Supervisor.

On average, daily high temperatures in Jacksonville, during the month of September, range from 86 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with fresh asphalt temperatures ranging from 275 to 380 degrees.

"The majority of my crew are laying pavement for the first time of their naval careers, which will make this an outstanding experience for them, and serve as great refresher training for the rest of us," said Willis. "To see the young troops learn this skill and produce an exceptional product will be the most rewarding part of this project. Upon completion of the project, these young troops will have successfully gained valuable skills, such as paving, backhoe operations, and asphalt rolling, that will accompany us throughout our careers and will be a valuable asset during our upcoming deployment to U.S. Central Command's area of operation (AOR) in early 2012."

"It is a breath of fresh air to have our Seabees back in the saddle conducting real-life training," said Chief Equipment Operator Jerry Greer, from Helena, Ark., Detachment Jacksonville's Assistant Officer in Charge (AOIC). "Asphalt lying is a critical skill that takes specific attention to detail. To get these young troops this particular skill will pay great dividends during our upcoming deployment," said Greer. "Though we place extreme emphasis on the project, our number one goal is, and always will be safety. Keeping our troops safe will ensure that the project is a success."

On Sep. 30 NMCB 7 is scheduled to turn over the paving project to NMCB 11, also homeported in Gulfport, Miss. The detachment will rejoin the battalion's mainbody and continue preparations for a scheduled six month deployment to U.S. Central Command's AOR in early 2012.

As witnessed last year, during the Battalion's deployment, the Seabee's role in our nation's Maritime Strategy is to provide Expeditionary construction and engineering (combat service support) to Navy, Marine Corps, Joint, and other operational forces. NMCB 7 continues to meet these expectations while fine-tuning their tactics, responses, and capabilities that will allow the Battalion to operate at the "Tip of the Spear" during its upcoming combat deployment in support of U.S. Central Command tasking and objectives.

NMCB 7 is one of the original ten Seabee battalions authorized by the Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks in 1942.

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