Changing of the Guard at Camp Covington

By Ensign Frances R. Hunter, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 Public Affairs

SANTA RITA, Guam – Detachments from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 and NMCB 133 conducted a turnover ceremony at Camp Covington, Guam, Jan. 17.

The Turnover marked the beginning of NMCB 11 Detachment (DET) Guam’s seven-month deployment to the 45-year-old Seabee camp.150116-N-ZZ999-010

Distinguished guests included Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, commander, Joint Region Marianas; Capt. Erich Diehl, commander, Task Force (CTF) 75; and Capt. Alfred Anderson, commanding officer, Naval Base Guam. The guest speaker, Capt. James Meyer, commodore, 30th Naval Construction Regiment, charged NMCB-11 DET Guam to meet the standard of excellence set by NMCB-133.

“Our Nation relies on its Seabees to be ready and show our commitment to this area,” said Meyer. “I expect you to deliver as the Seabees before you have done steadfastly for the past almost 73 years.”

Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth Sowell, officer-in-charge of NMCB-11 DET Guam, responded during the ceremony, “Commodore, we accept your challenge. NMCB-11 DET Guam is here and we’re ready to get to work,” said Sowell.

The 178-person detachment will execute construction projects on Guam including a shade shelter in front of the Naval Base Guam Navy Exchange, reinforced concrete pads for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, and an Air Force training facility at Andersen Air Force Base (a project led by the 554th Red Horse Squadron).

Simultaneously, two construction civic action details (CCAD) will perform humanitarian construction and community engagement projects in the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Another detail will travel to the Republic of Fiji in support of Pacific Partnership 2015.

Many of these missions will promote the security and stability of U.S. allies by improving infrastructure and local quality of life. Others will aid U.S. military units on Guam by supporting the Navy-wide priority of forward presence in the Pacific.150116-N-LP919-027

Most importantly, NMCB-11 DET Guam will provide a military construction force ready to travel in response to natural disasters or operational needs. Seabees have deployed out of Camp Covington on missions ranging from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) to disaster relief following the 2005 tsunami in Sumatra, Thailand.

“The importance of the Seabees in Guam and the Pacific in general is due to the fact that the area is very highly prone to natural disasters, tsunamis, earthquakes, typhoons,” said Senior Chief Construction Electrician John C. Beck, NMCB-11 DET Guam operations chief. “It’s important to have a contingency construction force that’s able to do not only contingency construction, but disaster relief. The Seabees can provide a wide gamut of support.”

For DET Guam, maintaining that level of readiness will require the Seabee “Can-Do” spirit. In recent years, the Guam deployment site was reduced from a battalion “mainbody” site of around 600 personnel to a detachment site of 100 to 200 personnel. The majority of NMCB-11 is currently deployed in Rota, Spain.

Seabees have a long and decorated history in Guam. Created during World War II, Seabee battalions were heavily involved in reconstructing Guam after occupation by the Japanese from 1941 to 1944.

Seabees constructed Marine Corps Drive, the main thoroughfare of Guam, as well as the enormous deep-water Apra Harbor. Seabees have maintained a presence on Guam ever since, rebuilding war-torn infrastructure and later supporting U.S. forces in Korea and Vietnam.

In 1975, Seabees built Camp Asan, a refugee camp at Asan Beach that processed more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees following the fall of Saigon. In 1997, Seabees were some of the first on the scene of Korean Air Flight 801, a passenger jet carrying 234 people that crashed in Sasa Valley, Guam. The Seabees used backhoes to crack open the still-burning plane to rescue survivors.

Camp Covington, the traditional home of Seabees in Guam, was founded in 1972.150116-N-ZZ999-015

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