Well-traveled Seabees prepare to leave Rota for home
August 5, 2004
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 are packing up and heading home next week after seven months of work on three continents.
The Gulfport, Miss.-based battalion arrived in Rota in January for a scheduled seven-month deployment, but the majority of the roughly 1,000 sailors and officers were sent to work on various construction projects in western Iraq, Sicily, Crete, Ghana and Croatia.
Seabees working in and around the contentious Iraqi city of Fallujah have withstood mortar attacks and roadside bombs to help with the reconstruction.
“And they’re holding up great,” Lt. Cmdr. John Kliem, battalion executive officer said from the unit’s temporary headquarters at Camp Mitchell in Rota. “It’s not slowing down as we move out.”
The battalion will be replaced next week by the Port Hueneme, Calif.-based Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4. Navy construction battalions rotate in and out of Rota about every six or seven months.
In the past, battalions deployed to southern Spain have focused on construction projects in the Mediterranean Sea region. But the war in Iraq and the push to develop small forward operating bases in Africa have splintered the battalion’s companies across the globe.
Some of their work included:
Cleaning up the war-torn Fallujah area of such things as empty shell casings and broken guardrails along the roadways.
Building a security fence in Sigonella, Sicily.
Constructing a warehouse, living quarters and operations center at a base in Accra, Ghana. The 42-member team also built a medical clinic and a playground in cities near the base, which could be used as a launch pad for future missions.
Building a pipeline for the first ever running water to about 6,000 people in a Croatian town.
Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Fellows, 34, of Bemus Point, N.Y, was part of the group that went to Ghana. He was surprised by the welcome the Seabees received.
“When we drove by, they would yell, ‘America! America!’ ” Fellows said.
Sailors returned the favor by chipping in their own money to pay for uniforms and soccer balls for area children.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Samuel Webster, 26, of Glenford, Ohio, who helped build a warehouse for Naval Special Warfare Unit 10 in Rota, said battalion members are ready to turn everything over to their replacements, so they can “make a smooth turn.”