By Builder 3rd Class Emily Due, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 Public Affairs
A small detail of 11 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 received first-hand construction experience operating in below-freezing conditions during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2021 at Thule Air Base (AB), Greenland.
This exercise evaluated how the Naval Construction Force Table of Allowance (TOA) handles in extreme cold-weather conditions while supporting Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1’s diver training exercise. Temperatures averaged -15 degrees Fahrenheit with an extreme low of -55 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The team of Seabees from NMCB 1 did an outstanding job at ICEX,” said Lt. j.g. Morgan Jung, the detail officer-in-charge. “They had a great opportunity to practice in-rate skills while testing the limits of our equipment in the extreme cold weather. I’m honored to be a part of such a unique experience.”
Upon arrival to Thule AB, Seabees from NMCB 1 began their mission by conducting engineering surveys for the divers’ ice camp and completing the tent camp set-up.
Engineering Aide 1st Class Brian Hemme worked alongside members from UCT 1 to learn the requirements for setting up an ice dive site. He then tested the engineering aide equipment while plotting out the points of the camp.
“One of the most challenging parts of the exercise that we overcame was coordinating and learning the assets the different commands used,” said Hemme. “Working extended periods of time in frigid temperatures provided a constant challenge, however, we all had the perseverance to achieve a common goal and it outweighed any adversities we had.”
In the extreme cold weather, the crew practiced in-rate tasks by fabricating a welding table, placing concrete blocks, performing civil engineering support equipment maintenance, and conducting camp maintenance.
"ICEX21 demonstrated the commitment of our Naval expeditionary forces to train and operate in challenging Arctic conditions. We will Clear, Secure, Build, and Protect in any maritime environment to reinforce lethality from the sea. I look forward to the next opportunity to deploy our forces to the Arctic." Said Capt. Cameron Chen, commodore of CTF-68.
These Seabees contributed to the development of a more proficient Arctic naval force by deliberately documenting capabilities, limitations, and lessons learned to better develop future Seabee Arctic capabilities.
“It was an awesome opportunity to establish great bonds between everyone here while experiencing the extreme cold weather,” said Construction Electrician 3rd Class Wyatt Palmer. “It’s cool seeing how UCT 1 operates in these conditions. Overall I’m glad to be one of the few Seabees to experience these conditions.”
In preparation for the mission, these Seabees attended the Basic Cold Weather Leaders Course at Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. One of the most unique evolutions was the hypothermia lab, where the Seabees were submerged in a frozen pond for 10 minutes to experience the effects of hypothermia.
They also participated in a field portion consisting of rucking to different tent sites in a simulated tactical environment and learning cold weather survival techniques. After successfully completing the training, they became certified cold weather subject matter experts for their command.
Members from Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2, NMCB 1, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC), Naval Experimental Dive Unit (NEDU), Naval Sea Systems Command Office of the Director of Ocean Engineering Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (NAVSEA 00C), and Naval Dive and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) participated in an NCG 2-lead Naval Construction Force (NCF) Arctic Training and Testing & Evaluation event at Thule Air Base in Greenland.
UCT 1 is homeported in Gulfport, Mississippi, and forward deployed to Rota, Spain, with details and detachments deployed across five combatant commander areas of responsibility to provide an adaptive and scalable Naval Construction Force ready and capable of executing quality construction in combat or in support of civic action, humanitarian assistance, or disaster recovery.
Commander, Task Force (CTF) 68 commands all Naval Expeditionary Forces in U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility in direct support of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, and Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet Maritime and Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) Strategies and Maritime Support Plans.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests, security, and stability in Europe and Africa.