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Seabees In Kandahar: 'We Build, We Fight'
by USAF Staff Sgt. Timothy Chacon - May 10, 2012

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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (5/6/2012) - Several Navy Seabees are assigned to Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction team in Kandahar Afghanistan.

Many people may have never heard of the U.S. Navy's Seabees. The simple, but to the point motto of “We build, We fight” is all one would need to know to understand the basics of what Seabees do, but there is much more to their story. The Seabees have over 70 year of history and accomplishments both in combat and humanitarian missions around the world. From storming the beaches at Normandy during World War II, to assisting with relief efforts in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquakes, the Seabees are more than qualified to handle any situation or challenge placed before them.

Navy SeaBees assigned to the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team pose for a picture April 13, 2012 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Kandahar PRT is a joint team of U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy service members and civilians deployed to the Kandahar province of Afghanistan to assist in the effort to rebuild and stabilize the local government and infrastructure. Photo by USAF Staff Sgt. Timothy Chacon
Navy SeaBees assigned to the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team pose for a picture April 13, 2012 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Kandahar PRT is a joint team of U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy service members and civilians deployed to the Kandahar province of Afghanistan to assist in the effort to rebuild and stabilize the local government and infrastructure. Photo by USAF Staff Sgt. Timothy Chacon

The eight Seabees assigned to the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan find themselves tasked with a mission that is somewhere in between a combat and humanitarian mission. The mission of KPRT is to assist with improving governance and rebuilding the infrastructure of the Kandahar province. The Seabees play a major role in the infrastructure rebuilding as well as logistical support for all missions conducted by the PRT.

There are three types of Seabees assigned to KPRT: Construction Mechanic, Builder and Construction Electrician. All three titles are self-explanatory as to what duties they perform, but what might not be so evident is what actually goes into performing those duties.

KPRT currently assists of local Afghan construction contractors with several projects in the Kandahar province. The Seabees are not the ones swinging hammers or pouring concrete, but they are providing valuable oversight and expertise for those projects. They monitor the projects and work hand in hand with local engineers ensuring they are meeting certain building standards and safety regulations.

“What we do is very important, we try to teach the locals safer ways to do the projects and help them establish a standard for building codes.” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Michelle Bernales.

Along with the oversight, the Seabees also spend time trying to educate the Afghans on building methods and techniques.

“We don't just tell them what they need to be doing, but also the reasons for it,” said Bernales. “It's important they understand why they are doing things a certain way. This will not only make their structures safer, but prolong the life of the buildings.”

The building sites are in the local community and not within the safety of a secure compound. The Seabees venture to these construction sites to keep track of the building process, often times putting themselves in dangerous situations.

“There are some inherent dangers in what we do, but we are well trained and prepared for them,” said Lt. J.G. Sean Wilder, Engineering Operations officer. “We do everything we can to mitigate the risks, but we wouldn't shy away from a mission we deem important just because it's dangerous.”

In order for the construction site supervision to take place, as well as any other movements by the PRT, the convoys must have reliable transportation. This seemingly never-ending task of vehicle maintenance falls on the construction mechanics. The CMs spends most of their days working on the PRT's Mine Resistant Armor Protected vehicles ensuring they are always up and running. The CM's goal is to have 100 percent of the vehicles operational 100 percent of the time.

“The conditions in Afghanistan can be hard on the vehicles, but without the vehicles we can't run missions,” said CM2 Andrew Baumann, vehicle maintenance supervisor. “It is all about combat availability and we do everything we can to keep the vehicles running.”

Seabees can come across as arrogant and difficult, but when the KPRT Seabees where asked about their best experience as a Seabee they replied with experiences that involved helping others. From assisting flood victims in Sicily, constructing a school for children with Autism in Mississippi, to building wells in the Philippines. The hard exterior Seabees took the most pride in doing things for others.

“To me, being a Seabee means helping people out and always put them before yourself no matter what,” said CM Kirby Rush.

The inscription on the Seabee memorial at Arlington National Cemetery reads, “The difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a big longer. With compassion for others we build, we fight for peace with freedom.”

By USAF Staff Sgt. Timothy Chacon
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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