As Hurricane Ike grew in
intensity and threatened the U.S. Gulf Coast in early September, Naval
Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) ELEVEN prepared to mobilize from
Gulfport to the point of impact. Two days before the storm’s landfall, the
Battalion was tasked to prepare a force capable of providing high water
rescue and humanitarian relief in the wake of the hurricane’s destruction.
The requirements to accomplish the mission consisted of over 70 high water
vehicles and the ability to self-sustain throughout the operation.
Divided into two High Water Force Packages (H/W FP1 and
H/W FP2), NMCB 11 staged a total of 91 vehicles, loaded with a 250-man tent
camp (including power generation and utilities), various debris removal
equipment and enough food and water to last a week. Since a majority of the
vehicles and equipment were not organic to NMCB 11, several units aboard
Construction Battalion Center (CBC) Gulfport began 24-hour operations in
support of the Battalion’s mission. By the morning of September 13th, new
equipment had been pulled from the warehouse, inspected, and signed over to
NMCB 11 with all of the required gear mobile-loaded and vehicles parked in a
During the afternoon of September 13th, NMCB 11
received an Execution Order to deploy H/W FP1 to a staging area, located at
England Industrial Airpark in Alexandria, LA. The Team stepped off in a
convoy consisting of 88 personnel and 44 vehicles en route to their
destination. Several challenges, involving break-downs of the brand-new
vehicles, were met and overcome along the way. Vehicles were repaired and
towed at several locations, but only one of the 27
High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV)
did not make it to Alexandria. It was
recovered and returned to CBC Gulfport for maintenance. The Force Package
received a great deal of support from an Army National Guard Unit in Baton
Rouge, LA, where the convoy stopped to refuel.
“The ride was long and exhausting, but I enjoyed
it after all. We had a lot of fun, while working hard, and I’m glad I got
to be a part of it. We all knew it was for a good cause,” said Builder 3rd
Class Daniel Guillermety.
The convoy finally arrived in the early morning hours
of Sunday, September 14th. The exhausted team was given berthing aboard an
Intermediate Support Base (ISB) in the Airpark. Upon their arrival, they
fell under the Operational Control (OPCON) of US Army Task Force 52 (TF 52),
and waited for further tasking. For two days, while the Army and the state
of Texas assessed damages, H/W FP1 continued preparations to move in and
provide relief. Vehicle checks and maintenance were performed constantly,
training was conducted and the Reception,
Staging, Onward movement, and Integration (RSOI)
process was completed for the proposed Area of Operations. Camaraderie and
morale were high, as the group socialized and held friendly sporting
competitions with several Army units and Navy Special Boat Team 22, which
were co-located in the ISB.
On the morning of September 16, however, the damage
assessments were nearing completion, and the state of Texas had not yet
requested Federal assistance for the storm. TF 52 issued the order for the
Force Package to re-deploy to Gulfport.
Even though the Seabees from NMCB 11 did not get the
opportunity to execute the intended mission, the Battalion and many other
units aboard CBC Gulfport gained some very valuable experience and knowledge
through the preparation and movement phases. The lessons learned will
better prepare the Seabees for all future missions including humanitarian
relief, contingency operations and deployment.