Seabees In Afghanistan “Can Do” It All

By Utilitiesman 2nd Class (SCW) Corey A. Otto, Build Team Non-Commissioned-Officer-in-Charge, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11, Det-4

 BALKH PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Navy Seabees travel throughout all provinces of Afghanistan, contributing to one of the U.S. military’s most important missions, fighting the insurgency and training the local police forces to defend their land from the Taliban.  Providing security and fostering the growth of the legitimate Afghan government is the mission of the Special Operations Forces of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan.  Constructing forward operating bases (FOB) and village stability platforms (VSP) is how Seabees help U.S. and Coalition forces operate in critical areas far away from the centralized and built up main bases and airfields in Afghanistan. 

Newly completed Latrine, Shower & Shave (LSS) facilities installed by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11. (U.S. Navy photo by Utilitiesman 2nd Class Corey Otto)

Seabees have the special ability to take a blank canvas of land and create a new platform located hours away from the nearest base or headquarters, complete with protective walls and barriers, timber watch towers, lumber constructed facilities to house troops and operations centers; even latrine, shower, shave (LSS) trailers connected to fully functional and self contained septic and leach field systems, along with generator based power distribution grids that enable extended tours in remote locations with many of the comforts and amenities of the larger bases.  The Seabees “Can Do” it all, and consistently do as the premium military force utilized to stand-up and improve military installations and infrastructure throughout all of Afghanistan. 

Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 – Det-4, homeported in Gulfport, Miss. and operationally attached to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan, recently deployed a small build team, consisting of four Seabees with utilities and infrastructure expertise, to a US Army Special Forces Task Force Headquarters in northern Afghanistan in order to emplace and install several hygiene facilities that will enable the camp to house hundreds of additional personnel and enhance quality of life.  The Seabees’ mission will greatly enhance future Special Forces transient personnel en-route to or from one of the dozens of VSP sites throughout Afghanistan. The local Army Special Forces HQ supports with operational planning, logistics, air coordination, and VSP construction planning where Seabees are utilized by deploying small specialized teams to conduct boots-on-ground site assessments for future construction projects.  

The “Blank Slate” of a newly established Village Stability Platform (VSP) located in Northern Afghanistan, prior to construction and camp improvements made by Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 – Det-4. (U.S. Navy photo by Utilitiesman 2nd Class Corey Otto)

 At this Special Forces Camp, Utilitiesman Constructionman Aaron Rogers and I completed a site assessment for the project to determine exact material and support requirements.  With the rest of my build team, I returned to complete construction and installation of three additional LSS trailers, including 6 new showers, 12 latrines, 2 urinals, 5 sinks, 5 air conditioner units, as well as a new water distribution system to supply water, a new septic system to relocate waste/ soil from the trailers, and power distribution to generate all electrical needs to the new facilities.

 Once the mission’s Pre- Deployment Site Survey (PDSS) was complete, I returned with Rogers, Utiliesman Constructionman Apprentice Toua Hang, and Construction Electrician 2nd Class Anthony Williams to team up with local Afghan heavy equipment operators contracted to assist the Seabee team with excavation, trenching and crane support for emplacing the LSS units and associated water and septic tanks.

Construction Electrician 2nd Class Anthony Williams, from Miami, Fla., assigned to Naval Mobile Cosntruction Battalion (NMCB) 11 – Det-4, installs a ceiling mounted lighting fixture inside a Latrine, Shower & Shave (LSS) facility at a forward operating base in northern Afghanistan. (U.S. Navy photo by Utilitiesman 2nd Class Corey Otto)

The Navy Seabee rate of Utilitiesman (UT) is a plumber, HVAC technician and water purification expert, amongst numerous other specialties rolled into one Navy occupational rate.  This deployment has shown that a UT can be well employed during contingency operations in Afghanistan.  The multiple missions that Rogers and I were tasked with accomplishing for Army Green Beret and Navy SEAL teams at numerous VSPs and FOBs have kept us more than employed throughout the 7-month Afghanistan deployment.


Capt. Benjamin Robinson, the local Task Force S4 (Supply & Logistics) Officer in Charge, in direct coordination with the Seabees, ensured all project materials, contracted equipment and support were available and utilized accordingly, allowing my team to complete our final mission in northern Afghanistan 10 days ahead of schedule.  

 “Seabees have been an immeasurable asset to the Task Force in both construction to the VSP sites, and the improvement to the task force headquarters,” Robinson said.  

Indeed, the Seabees are one of the greatest contributors to US and Coalition Forces and will continue to build and fight for peace with freedom for years to come.

Utilitiesman Constructionman Aaron Rogers (right), from Williams Bay, Wis., and Utilitiesman Constructionman Apprentice Toua Hang, from Manitowoc, Wis., both assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 – Det-4, fit and adjust the slope of wastewater piping connecting a Latrine, Shower & Shave (LSS) facility to a nearby septic tank. (U.S. Navy photo by Utilitiesman 2nd Class Corey Otto)


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