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Constructionman Richard McLean, from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, chops fallen trees on Guam.

Constructionman Richard McLean, from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, chops fallen trees on Guam. (Jason Carter / S&S)

Constructionman Richard McLean, from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, chops fallen trees on Guam.

Constructionman Richard McLean, from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, chops fallen trees on Guam. (Jason Carter / S&S)

With a front-end loader, Constructionman Jason Pugh picks up a whole coconut tree that a super typhoon downed on US Naval Forces Marianas in Guam.

With a front-end loader, Constructionman Jason Pugh picks up a whole coconut tree that a super typhoon downed on US Naval Forces Marianas in Guam. (Jason Carter / S&S)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Paxton from the USS Frank Cable helps with the cleanup on Guam.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Paxton from the USS Frank Cable helps with the cleanup on Guam. (Jason Carter / S&S)

U.S. NAVAL FORCES MARIANAS, GUAM — On a Navy base, Seabees are easy to spot: They’re the ones in green hard hats.

These days, Navy Seabees are everywhere: moving branches, fixing generators, distributing water, even building makeshift toilets — whatever work is needed to clean up Super Typhoon Pongsona’s mess.

“We’ve been running 24 hours a day,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Stan Travioli, spokesman for the Seabees’ Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74.

Travioli figured he’s slept about 14 hours since the Dec. 8 typhoon. Every day there’s a new job.

The Seabees helped clear a road for firefighters to the site of an oil fire during the typhoon. Last week, they worked overnight to get a backup generator running for Orote Commissary, which lost seven truckloads of perishable goods, Travioli said.

“We would have been able to operate, but it would have been a lot harder without the Seabees,” said Bruce Graf, Defense Commissary Agency Guam zone manager.

At times, natural-disaster cleanups call for improvisation, such as when the base’s Navy SEALs had a special request.

The Seabees built the SEALs “office” toilets: a plywood shed with partitions and four holes, topped with toilet seats.

“Because of the damage, we have to be creative to make things work,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis Patterson, 33.

As of Monday, Naval Forces Marianas, or “Big Navy,” lacked electricity, as did the rest of Guam. Many buildings used generators to turn on the lights and, in some cases, provide air-conditioning. The gas pumps opened Sunday night; customers were limited to $20 per vehicle.

The base’s water pressure was not at full capacity, and some housing units still lacked running water.

The Seabees helped set up on-base water containers with treated water for drinking and non-drinkable water for flushing.

Hard work has its rewards: “We’ve got hot showers,” Travioli said. “We have to be able to survive and help others.”

The Seabees, who are deployed from Gulfport, Miss., have been at Naval Forces Marianas since October. In peacetime, they build, but they also train for natural-disaster cleanup.

Travioli said 214 Seabees are helping in the mop-up, assisted by sailors from the USS Frank Cable. The submarine tender, stationed at Guam, returned to the island Dec. 12 after waiting out the typhoon at sea.

Fireman Thomas Beard, 21, said damage caused by Pongsona was startling.

“When we came back, it was amazing,” he said. “People’s houses were ruined.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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