Seabees increase jungle readiness, survivability

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Seabees increase jungle readiness, survivability

by: Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Fahey, Marine Corps Installations Pacific | .
published: October 05, 2013

JUNGLE WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, CAMP GONSALVES, OKINAWA, Japan -- Deep in the Northern Training Area – 17,500 acres of dense jungle occupied by poisonous spiders and three species of venomous snakes – 63 Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 woke to barking Marine Corps instructors Sept. 22, motivating them through the final stage of their eight-day training at the Jungle Warfare Training Center.

The 3.8-mile jungle endurance course cemented each block of prior practical instruction by splitting the group into 12-person squads to see which team could defeat the course’s 31 obstacles in the shortest time.

“They did a really great job,” said Cpl. Dustin Davis, an instructor at the JWTC, Camp Gonsalves, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “The endurance course requires a lot of ground work, tons of running and communication. They worked together well and none of them got heated, which was impressive. They all kept a level head.”

During the previous seven days, students learned combat tactics, first aid, jungle survival, rappelling, overcoming booby traps and land navigation. All 63 Seabees slept in tents through turbulent rain and stifling humidity, further strengthening the group as a team.

“Being in the elements the whole time gave me some real perspective on how our forefathers fought during past wars,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Cale Vandertuin, a hospital corpsman with NMCB 3. “That’s all I could think about. I curled up with my legs crossed and ate my meals in the rain for only a few days – they did it for months in real combat. It made me very appreciative of their service.”

Applying these lessons directly impacted how well the teams performed. With each person representing a pressure point, victory equated to no one breaking under the jungle stress. When challenges bore down, the team shared the weight.

“The stretcher hauling was the most difficult,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jorge Reyes, a religious program specialist with NMCB 3. “It tested all of our patience because each step was teamwork – when one moved, we all moved.”

During the obstacle, squads built improvised stretchers using uniform tops, sticks and belts. The teams strapped a member on the makeshift stretcher and carried them through neck-high muddy water and ravines that pinned them on top of each other, all while dodging the very real aspects of a living jungle.

“The snakes were no joke,” said Reyes. “The (Marine) instructors would see them, shout them out and help us, but we still got a guy on our backs relying on us to keep him safe. Big spiders the size of my hand … there was nothing simulated during this training. It was amazing, and the instructors were the real deal.”

The JWTC is the only U.S. Department of Defense jungle training facility in existence. The Marines provide expert instruction that builds upon small-unit leadership, imparting a tactical mind-set and confidence.

The training environment is realistic and matches that found across the Pacific region, helping sustain NMCB 3’s overall readiness as the only forward-deployed Pacific construction battalion ready to provide conventional combat, counterinsurgency and irregular warfare capabilities.

Thanks, in part, to the Marine Corps-led JWTC training, NMCB 3 is able to perform critical construction projects in remote island areas such as Timor-Leste, Tonga, Cambodia and the Republic of the Philippines. NMCB 3 detachments are also conducting operations in Atsugi, Yokosuka and Okinawa, Japan; Chinhae, Republic of Korea and China Lake, Calif.

NMCB 3 is part of the Naval Construction Force – a vital component of the U.S. maritime strategy that provides deployable battalions capable of providing disaster preparation and recovery support, humanitarian assistance and combat operations support.