By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs
U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 (NMCB 133) and Tunisian Navy engineers broke ground on the Phoenix Express 2022 (PE22) Engineer Civic Action Project (ENCAP) in Bizerte, Tunisia on June 3, 2022. The combined PE22 military engineer team will construct a new 130 square meter, two-room kindergarten building with a bathroom at the local elementary school in the La Pecherie neighborhood of Bizerte, Tunisia.
The project is part of the annual Phoenix Express exercise hosted in Tunisia that focuses on improving interoperability and increasing regional stability amongst North Africa nations, and is a testament to the strength of U.S.-Tunisia bilateral cooperation. The PE22 ENCAP is a vital training opportunity for naval engineers to gain expeditionary construction skills in an austere environment. The kindergarten building constructed by the combined military engineer team will also vastly benefit the La Pecherie community in an important location for maritime operations and exercises in the central Mediterranean Sea.
“This project is a great chance for the Naval Construction Force to build relationships, maintain interoperability with Tunisian Navy engineers, and practice our construction skills,” Lt. j.g. Ramses Carranza, officer-in-charge and project manager for the Engineer Civic Action Project. “And in the end, it leaves a tangible safe structure for the local children and the community overall, being able to help others and increase the quality of life of the children is the most rewarding aspect of this project.”
The two-room classroom building with two bathrooms will be constructed at the Bizerte elementary school compound. This new building will expand the currently available space for teachers and children, and can accommodate about 30-40 kindergarten students. Adding early-education facilities is a major need and priority for Tunisia. The team is expected to complete the project in mid-July.
“Helping this community, while we build our technical engineering skills is win-win,” This community is very close to the port and Navy base here in Bizerte” said Senior Chief Constructionman Enrique Molina, Engineer Exercise Planner, Naval Forces Africa. “Working side-by-side with our partners in Tunisia enhances our ability to work together, we learn from each other while strengthening our relationship with our partners and the community.”
The skills attained by the team of U.S. and Tunisian engineers 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. Although this project is construction of a kindergarten building, the work and skills attained by the team, are the same as those needed for military engineers in a crisis.
NMCB 133 is an East Coast battalion from Gulfport, Mississippi currently forward deployed across four geographic areas of operation, based in Rota, Spain under Commander, Task Force 68 (CTF-68) Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. The battalion is based there 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.
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 (NAVEUR-NAVAF), and Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet Maritime and Theater Security Cooperation Strategies and Maritime Support Plans.
PE22 is one of three NAVEUR-NAVAF-facilitated regional exercises as part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.
For over 80 years, NAVEUR-NAVAF has forged strategic relationships with our Allies and Partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability. Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and USAFRICOM areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.