Seabees hone battle skills on Okinawa
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — Two Seabees squads dismounted their 7½-ton multitactical truck and quietly eased their way through the tall brush, around a winding narrow road.
Quickly caught off guard, the sailors’ M-16 rifles burst with rapid gunfire.
“It’s coming from over there,” the squad leaders yelled. “Take cover!”
This scenario sounds similar to what soldiers are now experiencing in Iraq, but these sailors are Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Five, based in Port Hueneme, Calif., and on a seven-month deployment to Camp Shields.
The battalion is honing its war-fighting skills in a four-day field training exercise in the urban jungle terrain of northern Okinawa near Camp Hansen.
With every deployment here each battalion must spend time in the field training and fine-tuning in case it is called to battle, battalion officials said.
“This is realistic as it gets,” said Lt. Ken Schwalbe, battalion training officer, who helped coordinate the exercise.
“Training enhances our readiness,” he said. “This is how we practice to do it.”
In one exercise, Seabees supporting an “air detachment” took turns sweeping a simulated hostile area, securing the perimeter before the rest of the battalion arrived.
“I’ve learned so much today,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Adriana Lopez-Miller.
“This is important, so we know how to properly enter and defend a camp, throw on the chemical suits and properly prepare before deploying,” she said.
A group of enemy soldiers operates under the close eye of the battalion safety office and acts as aggressors.
Scenarios test the battalion’s limits in convoys, communications, land navigation, mobilizations and chemical, biological and radiological warfare.
Once the battalion returns to Camp Shields, the training department will start fixing weak areas learned from the scenarios.
“Seabees don’t normally get a chance to train in an urban environment. This is a perfect place to get it right,” said Schwalbe. “It prepares our readiness to deploy anywhere in the world.”