Seabees and Marines Train for Airfield Damage Repair

By Builder Constructionman Rosalind Bonenberger

CENTCOM FORWARD OPERATING SITE — Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 (MWSS-374), and Marine Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) conducted an Airfield Damage Repair (ADR) exercise aboard a CENTCOM Forward Operating Site.

NMCB 11 Deployment 2015
The exercise was designed to smoothly integrate airfield damage repair engineering operations with Marine explosive ordinance disposal procedures. Damage to military airfields frequently involves explosive hazards that hinder repairs. ADR engineers and EOD technicians must work together to restore airfield operating capability as quickly as possible.

Due to active airfield operations at the CENTCOM Forward Operating Site, the Seabees of NMCB-11 conducted earthwork operations to construct a mock airfield with a runway and taxiway where actual crater damage and spall repairs could be conducted. Equipment Operator 3rd Class Erion Jones, lead equipment operator, along with Builder 1st Class Tony Lent, ADR leading petty officer, created a realistic damage site that allowed the Seabees and Marines to effectively exercise their response capabilities.

“It was important that the Seabees and Marines have visual markers to assess and record, and be able to conduct actual repairs,” said Lent. “Theoretical knowledge will only take you so far, but actually utilizing the tools, materials, and skills required to be successful will make a world of difference when a real emergency arises.” 

Prior to the exercise scenario, the Seabees and Marines completed two days of classroom and practical application training. Classroom training facilitated an exchange of ADR techniques and procedures between the services, synchronizing the Seabees and Marines into a cohesive team. Practical application training focused on specific repair methods available at the CENTCOM Forward Operating Site. Every site with an ADR response capability has varying procedures based on manning and assets. 
NMCB 11 Deployment 2015
“Carrying out a realistic and comprehensive ADR scenario, from damage notification to complete repair, allowed our team to pre-identify problem areas within our plan,” said U.S. Air force Capt. Peterson Dela Cruz, the NMCB 11 Detachment officer in charge. “We are now able to further analyze these areas for probable outcomes and develop possible solutions in a controlled environment, so that in the event of an actual airfield repair, our team would be better prepared to make decisions on the fly.”

The scenario began with routine ordnance loading at the Combat Aircraft Loading Area (CALA), a common operation at the CENTCOM Forward Operating Site. In the scenario, an equipment malfunction on an AV-8B Harrier aircraft caused a fuel leak along the starboard side external fuel tank and was ignited by exhaust. The (notional) fire and subsequent fuel tank detonation caused significant damage to the airfield, while ordnance on the wings (GBU-54, AGM-65) was still attached to the pylons of the aircraft remains.

Upon notification of an explosion at the CALA, the Seabees and Marines quickly mustered at a central location with their equipment. The ADR Officer-in-Charge, Marine 1st Lt. Jeffrey Nguyen of MWSS-374, issued his ADR mission brief and the scenario played out. 

Marine EOD used route clearance and airfield clearance techniques to identify safe routes for ADR operations. Once EOD declared the site safe, the damage assessment team deployed to the mock airfield to obtain a detailed damage assessment of the airfield. 

From the command post, plotters worked quickly to determine the minimum operating strip required to get the airfield to full operational capability. Repair teams then used crater and spall damage repair techniques to return the minimum operating strip area to usable condition. The officer in charge provided the Emergency Operations Center with real time updates throughout the exercise. 
NMCB 11 Deployment 2015
The exercise improved each unit’s understanding of the others’ capabilities. Equipment Operator 3rd Class Erion Jones stated, “It was important for us [NMCB 11] and other supporting units to see exactly what each team can bring to the table in the case of an actual need to respond to damages on the airfield. Not only do we have a better understanding of each other’s capabilities, but we can actually see how things would unfold and how each unit would operate under our command’s tactical standards of operation, in order to be more aware of what one another needs or can expect.” 

The time-honored working relationship between the Seabees and Marines was prominently displayed throughout the exercise. ADR engineering efforts were led by U.S. Air Force Capt. Peterson Dela Cruz, who is serving as an exchange officer with NMCB-11. With his Air Force Civil Engineer background and reach back support from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC), the exercise synchronized techniques, tactics, and procedures from three services to refine the capabilities of Task Group 56.2. 

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