NMCB 11 Mobilized for Hurricane Ike
Construction Mechanic Second Class Brandon Trumbo, NMCB 11 Public Affairs and Ensign Andy Takach, NMCB 11 Bravo Company Commander

     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 staging area.
     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 R
eception, 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.