By CWO4 Chris Vollmer, U.S. SIXTH FLEET Engineer Engagement Officer
U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 (NMCB11) and U.S. Marine Corps Engineers assigned to the Eight Engineer Support Battalion (8th ESB) are working with Tunisian engineers and health officials to construct a new seven meter by eighteen-meter concrete building at the Tabarka Regional Hospital that will be used as an over-flow ward for COVID-19 or other emergency situations.
This project is part of the annual Phoenix Express exercise hosted in Tunisia that focuses on improving interoperability and increasing regional stability in Northern Africa. This project is a testament to the strength of U.S.-Tunisia bilateral cooperation. It allowed the joint, combined engineer team to enhance engineer readiness and build interoperability, while improving basic healthcare capacity in rural Tunisia.
“This project is a fantastic opportunity to improve our expeditionary engineering skills, while building relationships with our engineer partners,” said Lt. j.g. Patrick Collins, Tunisia Officer in Charge, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Eleven Detail. “Working with our Tunisian partners here in Tabarka has been a highlight of my career. We all have learned so much.”
The skills attained by the joint, combined engineer team during this project include construction planning and management, embarkation to an austere location, disaster response, and vertical construction to include over-head concrete pours and small unit tactics and leadership.
“The team really had to dig deep to make this project a success,” said Senior Chief Constructionman Enrique Molina, Naval Forces Africa Senior Enlisted Engineer, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Eleven Detail. “They experienced numerous challenges that will ultimately make them more capable engineers.”
The local community in Tabarka will benefit greatly from this $350,000 project by creating an extra ward at the Tabarka Regional Hospital. These efforts increased the mutual health resiliency for both the U.S. Navy and Tunisian Military.
NMCB 11 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.
Phoenix Express is an annual all-domain exercise to improve U.S. capabilities and interoperability with European and North African partners, increase partner self-sufficiency in the maritime domain, and assess and enhance the maritime security cooperation of U.S., European, and African regional partners.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts full spectrum joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.