CHULU BEACH, Tinian (NNS) -- The images seem like they could be from World War II: members of a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) setting up defenses on the Western Pacific island of Tinian.
Actually, the Seabees' defense of Tinian was part of Exercise Tandem Thrust '03, taking place in the Mariana Islands.
Coming in along with more than 150 Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 27th Light Infantry regiment, members of NMCB-28 built defenses to protect the island from "invaders" - namely, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, who would invade five days later. In those five days, the two units worked together to set up and build defensive positions in preparation for the attack.
But for some, the best part about working on the island wasn't the here and now.
"The most exciting thing about Tinian wasn't just our participation in the exercise," said Command Master Chief (SCW) Bob Evans, NMCB-28's command master chief. "The Seabees built the runways there during World War II, and we got to work on those same runways this past week. Seabees also built all of the roads on Tinian - it's been almost 60 years and they're all still used today. Even though the jungle is starting to encroach on some of them, they are still in excellent shape - we were amazed at their condition."
During the exercise, the Seabees set up defensive positions at a camp on Chulu Beach - the same beach their predecessors landed on in 1944.
"For us, this aspect had to be the most exciting of the exercise," said Evans.
The runways the Seabees built on Tinian - the biggest built during World War II - hold their own significant place in World War II history.
From those very runways, flights of B-29 Superfortress bombers flew missions over Japan. Two of those B-29s, Enola Gay and Bock's Car, carried the first atomic bombs.
Runway Able, one of four built at North Field, stands today as a testament to the construction capabilities of the Seabees during World War II.
On a lonely stretch of road between the Tinian Airport and the old North Field stands a simple white memorial to the 107th Naval Construction Battalion. The monument memorializes the Seabees who lost their lives during the construction that took place there during World War II.
Seabees helped take, defend and build on Tinian in 1944, and they repeated their accomplishments again nearly 60 years later. Evans said Tinian itself will always remain a memorial to the brave men and women who joined the U.S. Navy and became part of the proud tradition embodied by the Seabees.
"Just the recognition of those who came before us and gave their lives, the fact that our predecessors came up this same beach and worked on these same roads and runways, gave us an additional surge of energy during the exercise."
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