NMCB 11 Water Well: Drillers and then some

By EOC (SCW) Toby Davis, Det Water Well AOIC

Front Row Left to right: CMCN Hubler, LSSR Leverette, CM2 Timpe, UTCN Bucknam, EO3 Mayer. Senond Row: Eo1 Wawrek, CM2 Castaldi, HM1 Ordonia, CECN Guardiola, SWCN Deblanc, SW2 Fleming. Third Row: EO1 Nash, UT2 Dines, CE Dunaway. Standing: EOC Davis, ENS Anderson, hydrogeologist Graham H. Johnston of the United States Army Corps of Engineers

In the pre-dawn hours of January 29th in Gulfport, Miss. 16 Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 who had spent an entire year training and working together embarked on a 7 month deployment.  Their mission was to drill wells throughout Afghanistan in support of International Security Assistance Forces.  

After a few weeks transitioning from Gulfport to their first site, the water well team of Equipment Operators, Construction Mechanics, Steelworkers, Construction Electricians, and Utilitiesman, hit the ground running and relieved NMCB 4 on site at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zangabad.  

Under command of Officer in Charge, Ensign Andrew Anderson, and myself, Assistant Officer in Charge, Chief Equipment Operator Toby Davis, the team quickly displayed the Seabee ‘can do’ spirit that has made them an outstanding drilling team.  Drilling to depth in two weeks the team hit water on their first well and produced and capped one of the few free flowing artesian wells in country, producing over 75 gallons a minute of fresh clean water to support over 500 personnel.

Not content with only drilling wells, the team took it upon themselves to do what Seabees do best; make every site better than it was when they arrived.  Water well assisted in road and drainage construction, grey water storage, and the laying of 500 feet of fiber optic cable.  With every turn of the corner the Seabees were the go-to team for assistance, and those seeking their help got exactly what they needed; the true Seabee ability to get the job done.  

After extensive planning, with the help of the Convoy Security Element and outstanding support from both Alfa Company and Supply, the team packed up camp and relocated to the next well site, Combat Outpost (COP) Telekun.

 During the initial site visit Ensign Anderson and I discovered that the COP was in dire need of engineering assistance. The power grid was in shambles, there was only one operating shower facility with three showers to support over 250 infantry personnel, and the DFAC was incapable of cleaning and supporting itself as well as the necessary requirement for water.

EO1 Nash, SW3 Deblanc, and CM2 Timpe Drill using Foam with the new Laibe Rig in FOB Al Ma Saak

While discussing the issues of the COP to the battalion’s S3, I knew that could not, in good conscience as a Seabee, just go in there drill the well and leave.  They needed our help, and I knew we could help them.  I just needed the materials.  

The Battalion approved the bill of materials, and we headed to the new site.  The team divided into smaller tower crews and established a projects crew.  Det Water Well went to work immediately, setting camp and prepping the well site in less than 32 hours.

The projects crew first tackled repairing the shower trailers, often times rummaging through junk yards to find the necessary parts. The crew was able to get the shower trailers repaired and more than doubled the shower capacity for the entire camp, thus allowing Soldiers to take showers every day versus every three days, as it had been.

The drilling towers completed the construction well in record time, and in just two weeks the COP had a sustainable water source.  After repositioning the rig and prepping for the production well, the towers went right back to work attacking the production well.

Meanwhile the projects crew tackled more and more camp maintenance projects to get the COP up to a sustainable level, constructing a scullery, rewiring the power grid, and installing and repairing environmental control units, improving the COP daily. 

UT2 Dines Directs EO3 Smith while loading a newly constructed scullery for COP Telekun

Within three weeks, the production well was drilled and the towers began development to produce clear water. After five days of toiling, I made the decision to abandon the well due to its inability to produce clean water.  Undaunted, the team moved onto the next site.  This time, however, the faithful and reliable T2W water well drilling rig the Det had come to love was not going with us.  It was getting sent back to Camp Leatherneck to be shipped home after six long years in country.

Upon arriving in FOB Al Ma Saak, we met our new rig, the Laibe.  With the field support representative and numerous parts on hand, the team went right to work.  They drilled the construction well in less than seven days and had completed their production well two weeks later.

Amazed at the power and speed at which the Laibe rig drilled, the tower leaders quickly took to the machine and cared for it as they had cared for the T2W.  

In the process of moving to Al Ma Saak, Ensign Anderson executed his transfer orders and departed Detail Water Well headed for his next command.  Days before his flight out of FOB Telekun, I calmly walked over to the flag pole that had carried the det’s colors from one site to the next and removed the dirty tattered guideon emblazoned with ‘NMCB 11 Water Well’ and passed it around for the troops to sign then presented it to Ensign Anderson as a keepsake to forever remember the hard work and dedication the entire team showed.  

Now down to 15 Seabees, I took the reins and continued to drive the troops to bigger and better things.  After receiving numerous trailers and containers from NMCB 7 it was time to consolidate to ease the movements.  While the tower leaders were drilling, the projects crew spent weeks completely reconstructing the interior of a 20’ ISO Container and a 40’ ISO Container to allow for more organized inventories of tools and spare parts.  After two weeks the containers were cleared.  New shelves and cages were built and repacked with everything the team would need for follow-on missions.  

From Left to right: CM2 Timpe, EO3 Smith, EOC Davis, EO1 Nash. Installing well screens in COP Telekun

We learned of an Air Force project that had fallen way behind due to some equipment that hadn’t yet arrived.  Air Force Prime Beef engineers were desperate for assistance and the drilling team answered their call.  Digging trenches and ditches to allow for the placement of black water tanks as well as water and sewer pipes, the team assisted the project and was able to get the latrines and shower facilities up and running ahead of schedule to support the American forces moving into the expansion area.

Now it’s July, the team has been hard at it and the light at the end of the tunnel is quickly approaching.  Working 24 hour shifts and months without a day off, the troops of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ELEVEN’s Water Well team are still hard at it, making every minute of every day count; not just for the mission to drill wells but to support those who need it, to bring the best of the Seabees to the front lines and carry on that great Seabee heritage and ‘can do’ spirit.  

I’ve got the best people, in the best Battalion, with the best support; there is nothing we can’t do.

EO1 Wawrek and CM2 Castaldi Tighten down the well Head in FOB Zangabad

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