A Journey into Garmser District with Steelworker 1st Class Coogan J. Kennedy

By Engineering Aide Constructionman Nichollette Stepp and Steelworker 1st Class Coogan J. Kennedy

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, deployed to Afghanistan in February of 2012 for contingency construction operations ranging from camp maintenance and discretionary projects to full road layouts and building construction. 

One of the teams that play a vital role in the success of NMCB 11 is the Construction Management Training Team (CMTT).  CMTT’s coordinate with Civil Affair Teams around Afghanistan to instruct and train personnel on effective quality control procedures and construction management Programs.

One such member of the CMTT is Steelworker 1ST Class Coogan J. Kennedy, from Long Beach, Miss.  During one of his first missions, Kennedy was able to absorb the energy of the team and his mission here in Afghanistan for NMCB 11. 

Kennedy had only been attached to the Marine Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 4 just shy of two weeks. Most of the Marines that Kennedy would be working with had little to no experience in the Civil Affairs capacity, but they operated with the organized function and fluidity that is customary of the Marine Corps. 

“I was immediately absorbed in an eclectic mix of personalities and intellect that can only be experienced and appreciated in the comings and goings of the Navy-Marine Corps Team,” said Kennedy.  His purpose was to support the team with a detailed technical viewpoint of construction build quality assurance that would sustain progress and development in the Garmser District of Helmand Province for decades. 

“Not surprisingly,” commented Kennedy, “having a new Seabee attached to the Marine Team resulted in an accommodating experience that blurred the lines of service branch allegiance resulting in a seamless integration to the group’s operation and battle rhythm.”

One of many trips that Kennedy would take started on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Delhi, in Garmser District.  From FOB Delhi, he accompanied MCAT 4 aboard a Marine CH-53 helicopter bound for Camp Leatherneck.

It was a mid-afternoon flight in February, so the air for the start of their mission was crisp and cool.  The mission was to retrieve 3 tactical vehicles from Camp Leatherneck in order to provide MCAT 4 with the much needed ability to conduct autonomous movement.  Retrieving the vehicles was necessary as they would be used to navigate the expansive and kinetic Area of Operations (AO) in Garmser in support of the ongoing quality assessment of development projects. With Dwyer being almost 140 miles away outside the friendly lines of Camp Leatherneck, the team made sure that the vehicles and equipment were in top condition for the journey ahead.  As the convoy began, the long muddy desert ahead was providing a challenge, but they knew that they could manage any obstacle that the terrain could throw as illustrated by the following story from Kennedy.

“The Marines and I were stuck in Leatherneck for 3 days due to heavy rains and severe weather until it cleared enough to finally receive the trucks.  The next morning after the weather passed, the team and I began the start of the mission out of Leatherneck by pre-starting and performing preventive combat maintenance on the vehicles.  Within the first hour of the journey, one of the trucks in the convoy became stuck in the mud.  After multiple times of vehicles becoming stuck in the mud, the truck that would always save the day by pulling us out earned the rightful name of Hercules by the convoy team.”

Scenery along this desert trip became an interesting sight for MCAT 4.  Catching the eye of the team as their convoy continued its journey were vehicles and motorcycles blazing across the open desert as well as camels and wildlife that could be seen all around the area proving how nature continues on its majestic journey in any part of the globe.

 The trip was 11 hours of a long and arduous ride for Kennedy and the Marines.   With all of the necessary gear that was worn and stored on the vehicles, the team began feeling the exhaustion and soreness from the journey.  At the end, the team was thankful that the trip was over, but inevitably became closer and realized that all of them were excellent marines and sailors that could accomplish anything with teamwork.

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