AL FALLUJAH, Iraq (NNS) -- Convoy Security Element (CSE) teams from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 28 completed the first two months of their deployment to Iraq on May 20.
Seabees who operate CSE teams have adapted and overcome eminent dangers to complete missions crucial to critical construction projects in the Al Anbar province.
"The Seabees of our Convoy Security Element teams play a vital role in the secure movement of supplies throughout our area of operations,” said Cmdr. Craig Scharton, NMCB 28’s commanding officer. “Although performing in a non-traditional role, they have mastered this mission like the true professionals that they are and demonstrate on a daily basis their ability to quickly adapt to a rapidly changing operational environment."
NMCB 28 has two CSE teams. The two teams, 1st Platoon and 2nd Platoon, are part of NMCB 28’s Echo Company. After two months on deployment, the two teams have already completed 119 missions covering more than 7,900 total miles.
“It’s incredible to see my teams push through the long hours and missions and continue to stay focused and upbeat,” said Lt. Gerald Sachitano, the Echo Company commander and also a substation design engineer from New Orleans. “They truly display the Seabee “can do” spirit by executing a mission not organic to Seabees.”
Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate Andy Gray, a postal service employee from North Little Rock, Ark., is the convoy commander for the 2nd Platoon. He explained that the CSEs perform a wide variety of missions to include providing security for the 30th Naval Construction Regiment’s “Rockhound” team, who transports gravel to various worksites in the Al Anbar province.
The teams also provide security for civilian contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root’s supply convoys and their Third Country Nationals (TCN) who have come to Iraq from the Philippines, Turkey, Lebanon and other nations to make a living driving supply trucks. The CSE teams also occasionally escort vehicles, equipment, and personnel for the Army and Marines.
Gray said the job can be difficult at times due to the long hours and irregular work schedule. However, being on the CSE team has given him the opportunity to see much of Iraq that he would not have otherwise seen.
“So far we have been as far east as Baghdad and as far west as the Syrian border,” said Gray. “We have been to nine different bases, and we have gotten the opportunity to see more of Iraq than just the sand. It is very rewarding to drive into a city and see little children smiling and waving at us.”
The training that the teams have undergone and the amount of time they spent together preparing for the deployment has resulted in the members of the teams forming a tight bond, according to Gray.
“Even though our missions keep us separated most of the time, every time the two CSE teams get together, it is like a family reunion,” said Gray.
Construction Electrician 2nd Class Kenneth George, who calls West Memphis, Ark., home, is a gunner for the 1st Platoon. He mans one of the machine guns mounted on top of the escort vehicles. He says he has enjoyed his experience with the CSE team even though it is not traditional Seabee work.
“It has been interesting getting to do something with the Seabees other than building things,” said George, who works in law enforcement in his civilian career. “The teams enjoy what they do. We are a very tight group. The best thing about all of this is getting to see a lot of Iraq that others don’t get to see.”
The convoy commander for 1st Platoon, Chief Construction Mechanic Stephen Lucia, from Covington, La., enjoys missions that involve other military services and traditional Seabee project work.
“We get to work with other services like the Army and Marine Corps and we really enjoy that,” said Lucia. “For instance we recently escorted the Army providing them security and fulfilling part of the mission’s project by doing standard Seabee work which initially we didn’t think we’d have the opportunity to do. Getting to do some project work at the site gets the team all pumped up.”
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kenneth Williams, from Norman, Okla., is the medic for the 2nd Platoon. He said that being on the team is rewarding because it has given him the opportunity to travel a lot and interact with the Iraqi Police, the Iraqi Army and the TCNs.
“It has been a great cultural experience and I have gotten to see a lot of things including the Hadithah Dam and the Syrian border,” said Williams, who is a medical supply acquisition officer for Veterans Affairs in his civilian career. “And you can’t beat the camaraderie.”
Williams said being on the team is also challenging due to the constant enemy threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and precision small arms fire.
“Being a corpsman, I have to be ready to react,” said Williams.
The 2nd Platoon has recently performed a number of missions providing security for the Rockhound team as they haul fill material to the Government Center in downtown Al Fallujah.
Earlier in the deployment, the CSE teams escorted the Rockhounds to several combat outposts (COPs) located across the Al Anbar province. Steelworker 2nd Class Leo Teague, a gunner for the 2nd Platoon, says that being part of the CSE team has given him an opportunity to see the good things being done by Seabees.
“As a gunner for the CSE team, the many trips that we made with the Rockhounds made it possible for me to see the improvements that are being made across the country of Iraq,” said Teague, a police officer from Lavaca, Ark.
When not escorting convoys, the teams maintain their vehicles, conduct training and prepare for future missions.
NMCB 28 is part of nearly 1,100 Sailors and Marines supporting critical construction efforts in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.
For more news from 30th Naval Construction Regiment, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/30NCR/.