Seabee Teamwork: Recognizing leadership at all levels

By Builder 3rd Class Amanda S. Hollister, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Eleven, Detachment Four

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (May 4, 2012) Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11’s Det-4, Build Team-1’s hard working “CAN DO” crew poses for a photo after placing concrete for a foundation for a 30-feet by 50-feet kennel for Military Working Dogs in Kandahar, Afghanistan. NMCB-11 is homeported in Gulfport, Miss., and is deployed to Afghanistan to conduct general, mobility, survivability engineering operations, defensive operations, Afghan National Army partnering and detachment of units in combined/joint operations area-Afghanistan in order to enable the neutralization of the insurgency and support improved governance and stability operations. Team members include: Kneeling, from Left: Utilitiesman 3rd Class Jessica Seefield, Equipment Operator Constructionman Devin Dunnavant, Builder Constructionman Abraham Gonzalez, Builder Constructionman Thomas Massey, Builder Constructionman Jackie Watkins. Standing, from left: Builder 1st Class Anthony Boldrey, Builder 3rd Class Carlos Saldana, Builder 2nd Class Justin Davis, Builder Constructionman Amanda Hollister, Builder 3rd Class Julio Tovar, Builder 3rd Class Juan Vasquez, Steel Worker 3rd class Jacob Correll. (U.S. Navy photo by Builder Third Class Amanda S. Hollister)

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — In the military, leadership is all around us – from the newest E-1 to the most senior Admiral. The United States Navy takes many actions to ensure good leadership on all levels; special roles assigned to recruits at Recruit Training Command (RTC) Great Lakes, various levels of formal leadership training, and on-the-job training, just to name a few. To be a good leader, one must first be a good follower. Good followers are likely to be granted leadership roles from early-on in their careers. Once one learns to follow well, they more fully understand what qualities are needed to be a great leader.

Communication is very important to leadership. A unit that lacks successful communication is likely to falter. The Navy also teaches its personnel to communicate effectively; a good understanding of various ways to communicate allows everyone up and down the chain-of-command to fully understand, follow, and pass on directions and policies.

Outstanding leaders are important in both homeport and deployed operations. In homeport, personnel are pushed to improve and hone their leadership skills. This way, in theater, they can employ those skills effectively, with little effort.

The difference between a good leader and a great leader are their abilities to motivate and inspire their Seabees, no matter the circumstances. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, currently deployed to Afghanistan, has proven to possess many of those types of people, at all ranks and levels. A deployment atmosphere can bring out the leader in all of us – from Constructionmen on up.

The U.S. Navy Seabees are a small community in relation to the larger, fleet-side of the Navy. They take pride in familial-type relationships, while retaining respect and discipline of ranking structure. Seabee leaders get good opportunities to recognize and get to know their troops, allowing a more thorough understanding of a unit’s needs, and in turn creating a more approachable face to leadership. A troop who fears his or her leadership is less likely to excel, than one who knows, respects, and admires them.

Recently, Build Team-1 of NMCB-11, Det-4 , demonstrated leadership and teamwork at the lowest levels in the successful placement of  concrete in Kandahar Afghanistan.  Operating independently and far from headquarters, junior troops stepped up and accomplished the mission. Team Leader, Builder 1st Class Anthony Boldrey said, “I’m blessed to have such a motivated crew.  We have been working together for some time now and everyone knows their role and the team is firing on all cylinders.  When each individual uses their strengths to contribute to the team they are demonstrating leadership”.   While Boldrey was supporting other missions, Builder 3rd Class Carlos Saldana stepped up as team leader and the junior crew rallied together pressing on toward mission accomplishment. 

Recently, NMCB-11 Det-4, Officer in Charge, Lt. Cmdr. Chris Coggins and Senior Enlisted Advisor, Senior Chief Electrician Phillip W. Earhart were on site to witness Build Team-1’s concrete placement.  Earhart remarked: “The teamwork and leadership demonstrated at the lowest levels is a shining example for all of us to emulate. I am truly inspired.  This is a ‘CAN-DO’ team!”

After a successful concrete placement with Build Team-1, Coggins responded to a few questions:

Sir, you seem to stress that Goals and Teamwork are two things paramount to success, in all aspects of both life and career. Why do you think Goals are of high importance to success?
LCDR: “To quote Yogi Berra, ‘If you don’t know where you’re goin’, you’ll wind up somewhere else.’ And if you don’t set goals for yourself, you end up not living to your full potential and when you set challenging goals for yourself, you live up to your god-given abilities and talents, which in turn, you can serve others, and that’s what Seabees do best.”

And how do you think Teamwork plays into that?
LCDR: “Well just like in the SCWS (Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist) program, and just like everything else, like in the in-rate training, it takes a team to share and build knowledge. So, just like in the SCWS program, you have to learn it, then you earn it, and then you return it, for a lifetime. And those team relationships that are established help foster that learning and returning. And you want to help others, when others helped you. It’s that reciprocity, receiving and giving.”

I know Petty Officer Seefeld was very, very helpful in our SCWS program here. She looked up, and she wrote question after question for our murder boards here.
LCDR: “And how did that make you feel, when she did that? She took her own personal time to help?”

Very grateful that she would take the time to help us like that.
LCDR: “That’s a perfect example of the teamwork, other people working towards your goals. She knew what your goal was, she helped you achieve your goal, and that aligns to the battalion goals, which makes the team great. You start at the very lowest personal level of the relationship, you start by helping somebody, and that circles into the bigger picture goals, such as continuing the Seabee legacy, which kind of starts with the SCWS program, and in-rate training, and everything else.”

Do you have any specific goals for this Det, say for, this deployment? What are your goals for us?
LCDR: “My goal is to challenge you to live up to your fullest potential. And that starts with- nobody knows better than yourself. What your weak areas and what your strengths are, and that starts with goal-setting. That’s why I challenge you guys all with writing down your goals, I challenge you mentally, physically, and spiritually, in all those areas. Just like the Skipper says – ‘The Seabee Fitness’ – of being a well-rounded and balanced Seabee.  And just being an overall person that adds value to the team.”

Do you have any goals that you wouldn’t mind sharing, for your career in the Navy?
LCDR: “My personal goals are to add value to other people, and be the best leader that I could be.”

So you can help other people meet their goals too? 
LCDR: “exactly.”

LCDR Chris M. Coggins, from New Freedom, Pa., is currently serving as the Officer in Charge (OIC) for NMCB-11’s Det-4.  Currently deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, Det-4’s mission is to assist Special Operations Forces in various village stability operations throughout Afghanistan.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (May 4, 2012) Det-4’s Officer in Charge, Lt. Cmdr. Chris M. Coggins, from New Freedom Pa., assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, prepares to assist the det’s Build Team-1 in placing part of a concrete pad for the foundation of a 30-feet by 50-feet kennel for Military Working Dogs in Kandahar, Afghanistan. NMCB-11 is homeported in Gulfport, Miss., and is deployed to Afghanistan to conduct general, mobility, survivability engineering operations, defensive operations, Afghan National Army partnering and detachment of units in combined/joint operations area-Afghanistan in order to enable the neutralization of the insurgency and support improved governance and stability operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Builder Third Class Amanda S. Hollister)

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