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Around the Horn building hope.

The Seabees have always been at the forefront when it comes to winning over locals during war and peacetime missions abroad. During Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11's historic first deployment since being recommissioned Sept. 14, 2007, the Seabees of this young battalion were hard at work all over the world reestablishing themselves as a key piece of the philanthropic side of the U.S. Navy.


This is evidenced throughout Africa, where NMCB 11 is involved in numerous projects to help strengthen the bond between the Joint Task Force (JTF) currently serving in the Horn of Africa and the indigenous people located in and around their area of responsibility.



The Seabees of NMCB 11supported a vast number of humanitarian missions in Africa. In Djibouti the 'Bees of 11' refurbished buildings to ensure a healthy learning environment is available for the children of Grande Douda.

In Grande Douda, Djibouti, seven Sailors from NMCB 11 participated in a cultural celebration at the Ecole de Douda Primary School. Recently, NMCB 11 completed work on the school, installing a 1,500-liter water storage cistern and added a new dining facility, enhancing cleanliness to the school. With the crew of Seabees working six days a week at the school, the school wanted to thank the crew by inviting them to the celebration, according to Moussa Guedi Idriss, Ecole de Douda's 5th grade teacher.

"Americans help and always do anything for the school we ask," explained Idriss. "And we are friends, we wanted them here today."


"They asked us to join them the day before the event and we decided to share something with them," explained Builder 2nd Class Randall Class Randall Davis, project crew leader. "I brought in some of my wife's homemade cookies she sends me and the crew brought in other snacks and drinks," Davis said.

The sharing of cultures is an example of the positive relationship Americans are building with locals, said Idriss. "Davis and I are friends and [because of that] he helped us."

The crew took a break from their work day and watched the students sing, dance and laugh on their last day of school. "I like other cultures and participating in unique stuff like this," said Davis. "I'm glad we got a chance to take part in this."


On the tiny island of Comoros, NMCB 11 assisted another community in their educational pursuits, by providing just the second primary school to the residents of Moroni, Comoros.

Working from sunup to sundown, in heat and rain seven days a week, the crew members of NMCB 11 say they keep motivated because their hard work will benefit the Comorans.

"No matter how long the hours or hard the work, it's worth in the end," said BU3 Roylander J. Williams Jr., a project crew member. "The education will change the lives of the youth in Moroni."

The Comorans say they see the hard work and stress the Seabees endure every day and appreciate every moment of the work, which allows the deployed Americans and local people to create new relationships.

"We asked for help and the Americans were the first to respond," said Mohamed Ali Mgonri, headmaster for Hamramba Primary School. "It's great having people help. The effect of the work is of much value to Comoran people."

"The Comorans I have spoken to are excited to have this school," said BUCN Benjamin B. Highfield, a project crew member. "After they finish their schooling here, they want to go to the United States, or to France, to continue a higher education."

"Part of the Seabee ethos is we build with compassion for others," Highfield explained. "It's what we do, and I love doing it. We got to get out there and do the job, even if it means getting dirty and working all hours of the night.

"While NMCB 11 focuses on pouring concrete and bringing columns and walls to life for the schoolhouse, Comoran engineers have begun working side-by-side with the Seabees in a militaryto- military training program.

"The experience with Seabees and with the way they work is valuable," said Mgonri. "I feel help should always be like this. This will be the model of all schools on the island, with a new perspective and look on reality and education."


Another small contingent of Seabees from NMCB 11 was hard at work ensuring the children of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, have a learning facility that is top-notch from the ground up.

In Dire Dawa, a local secondary school is receiving the finishing touches on a new facility that will provide a location for plays, public speeches and other gatherings. They laid tile across the 4,300-square-foot floor and replaced the roof to complete the project.

The crew hit some speed bumps during the renovation, ranging from having no electricity to using mismatched tile sizes. But, they remained ahead of schedule.

"We found a technique for laying tile that works," explained BU3 John Vetter, a crew member .

"According to Construction Battalion Construction Management, the computer program we use to track our project's progress and calculate man-hours, we did 14 days of work in three days," Vetter said.

The Sailors' success came from their focus and determination to finish the school on schedule, according to CN Scott Bishop, another crew member.

"Once we get moving, it's actually hard to stop," said Scott.

"Most of the troops are green," said BU1(SCW) Jeffery Dwyer, project mission commander. "But they stay motivated and very resourceful for the task at hand."

"We have worked late and through lunch multiple times without even realizing it," said Bishop. "All of us just want to see the project to the end that much."



In Uganda the trend of assisting educational pursuits for the locals continued for NMCB 11, yet this time the 'Bees were needed to help bridge the gap between two towns separated by the effects of yearly torrential rainfall.

After completing work on a concrete bridge of major importance to villagers in Aromo, Uganda, NMCB 11 continued to work on a second one nearby.

The crew of Seabees built the Aromo low-water crossing bridge over a small river, replacing a lighter bridge that washed out during the last seasonal high floods and heavy rainfall. The bridge once again connected the village of Aromo with the road leading to the city of Lira and other local areas, such as the public school.

"The Seabees' strong work ethic and extensive technical skills are providing Ugandans with two bridges that [are] able to withstand the seasonal flooding and provide transportation solutions to the largest vehicles used in the region," explained Lt. Garth Pertersen, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) country planner for Uganda.

To work at the remote project site efficiently, the Seabees set up a small tent camp only 50 yards away from the bridge. The camp was designed to be self-sufficient, giving the Seabees their own power. It was where they lived and kept supplies for the project. It was also on the edge of local farmland, with goats and cattle constantly grazing next to the camp. The living conditions gave the crew a unique chance to grow, according to Steelworker 3rd Class John Johnston, project crew member.

"No one wants to live the way we do," Johnston said. "But it gives you such a great understanding of what the people we are helping have to endure on a daily basis. I have definitely developed a greater appreciation for the little things in life," added Johnston.

"By living in the vicinity of local Ugandans," said Pertersen, "the Seabees are able to interact on a daily basis with Ugandan civilians and build goodwill between our two countries. The efforts of the Seabeas of NMCB 11 outside Lira will provide benefits for both the people of Uganda and the United States for years to come."


NMCB 11 also had the opportunity to work with engineers from the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF), allowing more growth for relationships as well as cross-training.

"It's been an amazing experience working with the Ugandan engineers," said BU2(SCW) Peter A. Belcastro, project crew leader. "They have such a strong desire to learn and their work ethic is incredible. I would be happy to serve side by side with them anytime."




The villagers, especially children, watched the work daily, waiting for the Seabees to finish working each day before interacting with the crew. This was also the highlight of the day for the Seabees.

"Handing out our extra water bottles and throwing the football with the kids is by far the best part of the day," said Johnston. "No matter how exhausted you are, those kids can always bring a smile to your face."

"The people around here are genuinely nice, too," said Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Trent Thurnhorst, an equipment mechanic. "One guy came to my shop and began to cut the high grass. He told me 'I do this for friendship."

Johnston said the work was draining and living conditions were below what they considered normal, but mission progress and success came from the prospect of improving the lives of Ugandan youth.

"Some days," he said, "I don't feel 1ike getting out of bed and going to work. On those days, I remind myself that this project will ensure the local kids can cross the river during the rainy season to get to school. Knowing my work has such a tremendous affect on the local community is enough motivation in itself. There is no project I'd rather be on."

During their historic first deployment, NMCB 11 Seabees have re-established themselves as one of the best and brightest the Naval Construction Force has to offer. Fully embodying one of the Seabees mottos, "With willing heart and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a bit longer."

Holmes is assigned to American Forces Network South and Lingo is assigned to NMCB 11, Gulfport, Miss.

Story by MC1 (SCW) Nicholas Lingo and photos by MC2 (SCW) Erick Holmes
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Author:Lingo, Nicolas
Publication:All Hands
Date:Dec 1, 2009
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