CAMP PATRIOT, Kuwait (NNS) -- In the minds of many, the 'shock and awe' to be remembered from Operation Iraqi Freedom will not be the result of any air campaign; nor will it be of any large explosion causing the destruction of troops or military headquarters.
But instead, it will be of the massive offload and backload of thousands of Marines and the tons of fighting equipment and ammunition meant for all branches of service.
In what is being called the largest amphibious operation in the history of the United States, Camp Patriot, a joint-service multinational base camp constructed by amphibious Seabees, is a key contributor to bringing the fight to Iraq - and then bringing our personnel and equipment home again.
The methods and means of moving troops and supplies are varied, but one of the primary tools built and used for the mammoth effort is the Navy's Elevated Causeway System - Modular (ELCAS(M)), owned, purchased and operated by Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2.
ELCAS(M) is an expeditionary pier used to bridge the surf zone, providing an interface between lighterage, cargo vessels and the beach. Used in many exercises, and now in a war operation supporting Joint Logistics Over the Shore, ELCAS(M) is meant to support large offloads in areas where no pier facilities exist, or in the case of Camp Patriot, where facilities or scheduling of movement need to be enhanced with additional resources.
"This is pretty monumental," explained Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Cowan, operations officer, ACB-2, homeported in Little Creek, Va. "This is the first time that the system has been put into use for a wartime operation, but more importantly, it was the efforts of all the PhibCBs (Amphibious Seabees) that made it a reality."
Cowan explained that while an asset of ACB-2, the ELCAS\M was constructed in a joint-effort with ACB-1, homeported in Coronado, Calif.
"We have trained together for years, and while we may own it, this was a Seabee project - not an east or west coast project," continued Cowan.
The U.S. Navy has only two groups responsible for amphibious construction, one on each coast of the United States... and both now at Camp Patriot, Kuwait.
Construction began April 1, and the now completed 1,400-foot pier was completed April 18. Amongst busy beaches and real-estate limited spaces, the 48-person per shift crew was hampered by equipment and weather delays, but the 'combined can-do Gator Bee' team completed their work three days ahead of schedule in mid-April.
With a 3,000-foot pier-length capability and a 24-foot wide roadway, the ELCAS(M) features two 175-ton cranes, two tractor trailer turntables and lighting for 24-hour operation capabilities.
The pier is structurally supported by 24-inch steel piles that come in 30-foot-long pieces. These piles are welded together, then driven into the ocean floor until they reach a sufficient depth to support the bearing capacity.
According to Chief Steel Worker Charles Bailey, project leading chief petty officer, the soil at the ELCAS(M) site was very soft.
"Because the soil was so soft, we had to use much longer lenghts of pile than we're routinely used to," explained Bailey. "All the piles used were more than 76-feet long, and some used were as long 95 feet."
The pier can accommodate three-wide and five-wide barge ferries, as well as Army and Navy landing craft mechanized vessels, landing craft utility vessels, and logistics support vessels.
For related news, visit the Commander, Camp Patriot Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cmpf.