NMCB 11 Seabees Participate In Operation Sea Dragon
LT Cort Stringham
NMCB 11 ALFA Company Commander
September 30th, 2008

     On September 16, 2008, 24 personnel from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ELEVEN (NMCB) found themselves in an unusual situation for Seabees: shipped off to sea.  Marine Forces Command (MARFORCOM), together with Naval Beach Group TWO (NBG 2) were tasked with developing an exercise to display the Maritime Preposition Force (MPF) capability to conduct in-stream seabasing operations utilizing the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) and a Roll-on/Roll-off Discharge Facility (RRDF). 
     Operation Sea Dragon incorporated all the seabasing elements of an MPF Offload, including Lighterage operations led by Amphibious Construction Battalion TWO (ACB 2) and an Offload Preparation Party (OPP) consisting of NMCB 11 Seabees and II MEF Marines.  The OPP included 16 Seabees from NMCB 11 who boarded the USNS Sisiler (T-AKR 311) at Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, Florida and sailed to Fort Story, Virginia where they met up with the USS Bataan (LHD 5) and 8 Combat Cargo Handlers, also from NMCB 11.
     Embarked aboard Sisler, the OPP sailed to Fort Story on one of the newest additions to the MPF Squadrons.  Sisler is a Large, Medium Speed Roll-on/Roll-off (LMSR) ship with an interior cargo carrying capacity of over 392 thousand square-feet (nearly seven football fields) spread across six decks.
     NMCB 11 played a critical role in making the exercise a success.  The Construction Mechanics (CMs) and Equipment Operators (EOs) who were part of the OPP prepared and operated the CESE onto the RRDF and INLS for movement while the Combat Cargo Handlers provided their critical skills necessary for the operation. 
     The exercise proved the capability to move Principle End Items (PEI) from the ship to shore via the RRDF and INLS.  By utilizing these floating facilities, the Navy and Marine Corps are capable of projecting forward in areas where geography or political climate does not allow for an extensive shore-based infrastructure.  Without piers, or other shore facilities, Seabasing provides critical logistical support for the gear onboard the MPF Squadrons.  The Seabee involvement in the exercise was essential to establishing this capability because the majority of a NMCBs Civil Engineering Support Equipment (CESE) Table of Allowance (TOA) is found aboard the MPF vessels, compared to the Marines which only store about 40 percent of their gear on the ships.  Also, Seabee CESE is typically larger and more cumbersome than other embarked equipment with the exception of the M1A1 Abrams Battle Tank.  Over the course of two days, utilizing the Roll-on/Roll-off (RO/RO) and Lift-on/Lift-off (LO/LO) methods, 11 pieces of CESE were rolled off the stern ramp and three Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements (MTVRs) were craned directly onto the Causeway Ferries to test the capability and versatility of the RRDF and Lighterage.
     Although the exercise was originally scheduled to span a five-day period it ended after only two days due to heavy sea states.  However, all of the Seabee training objectives were met with flying colors as the latter part of the exercise was to be dedicated for the Marine Equipment Movements.  Admiral Greenert, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, was present on September 22 to observe a portion of the operations.
     While the concept of MPF operations was new to most of the NMCB 11 Seabees who participated in Operation Sea Dragon, their CAN DO spirit and hard work ensured a huge success.  Their enthusiasm and equipment expertise were vital to the exercise and proved once again that Seabees play a vital role in MPF operations. 

 

 

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 21, 2008) Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) ELEVEN Seabees conduct Lift-on/Lift-off (LO/LO) training operations using the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) onboard USNS Sisler (T-AKR 311). (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Blane Meadows)   ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 21, 2008) Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) ELEVEN Seabees conduct Lift-on/Lift-off (LO/LO) training  operations using the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) onboard USNS Sisler (T-AKR 311). (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Blane Meadows)   ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 21, 2008) Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) ELEVEN Seabees prepare to move a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) with a crane during Lift-on/Lift-off (LO/LO) training operations using the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) onboard USNS Sisler (T-AKR 311). (U.S. Navy photo by LT Cort Stringham)