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Seabees Train, Construct Navajo Indian Homes

Seabees Train, Construct Navajo Indian Homes

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Lopez
& Builder 3rd Class Jennifer Wilson
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 Public Affairs

PORT HUENEME, Calif. (NNS) Active duty Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 and reserve Seabees from NMCB-18 partnered with the Southwest Indian Foundation (SWIF) to build homes for Navajo Indian families in Gallup, New Mexico, Aug. 5-16.

The partnership is under the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Program (IRT), which allows service members the opportunity to receive unique training while simultaneously providing quality services to communities throughout the United States.

“SWIF is focusing on people who are in the most dire circumstances,” said Builder 1st Class Joseph Alfano, NMCB-3’s project supervisor. “One of the biggest takeaways from this is how much of an impact these IRT projects can have not just on the Seabees involved, but also on the communities they support. Many of us don’t realize there are people that need this kind of assistance this close to home. Most of the time when we hear of situations like this we think its half a world away.”

SWIF, founded in 1968 by Father Dunstan Schmidlin, offers a wide range of assistance programs. A non-profit, charitable organization, it relies solely on private donations to provide services such as housing, education, job training and food assistance to Native Americans.

This IRT project began in 1997, and since then has hosted several engineering commands every summer to complete training requirements while giving back to a community in need.

According to William McCarthy, the chief executive officer at SWIF, this project started because the right person noticed an opportunity to take the product of an already existing training requirement and passed it on to fill a need in the community. Part of the old curriculum at the U.S. Air Force Academy had cadets building an entire house from beginning to end before destroying it for the next class to start over. Instead of destroying the home, the training was tailored to create an actual home that would ultimately be delivered to homeless Native American families. That was more than 20 years ago and the project has only continued to grow.

SWIF manages the permitting, material procurement, site grading, order of precedence for work, and provides subject matter experts on projects. Most of the phases of construction are completed in the SWIF warehouse with certain tools provided by an Air Force Reserve Component. The homes are then transported in two pieces to the Navajo Reservation where the families will live.

The training goal for Seabees is to work on different phases of construction during their time in Gallup to gain as much experience as possible. The 12 NMCB-3 Seabees focused on framing, plumbing and electrical work during their time with SWIF.

“Working through the different phases of building really gives individual Seabees an appreciation of how different rates need to work together and communicate,” said Alfano. “Something that might seem like a minor change when framing can have a huge impact when it comes to installing utilities, for example. This is something that makes Seabees really get back to the basics and focusing on quality construction. The work done here also translates into experience that can be used on Naval Construction Force projects in the future and translates into employable skills outside of the Navy.”

Alfano said that affording NMCB-3 Seabees the opportunity to work with their reserve counterparts was also an important aspect of the IRT project.

“For most of our Seabees here this is the first time they have been able to interact with their reserve counterparts,” said Alfano. “Building these bonds and realizing each other’s capabilities will help us understand the bigger picture and how we can all come together to achieve common goals on future projects and exercises.”

NMCB-3 is home-ported in Port Hueneme, California. Seabees are the expeditionary engineering and construction experts of the naval service. They provide task-tailored, adaptable and combat-ready engineering and construction forces that deploy to support global Navy objectives.

For more information about Seabees and NMCB-3, visit http://seabeemagazine.navylive.dodlive.mil or https://www.facebook.com/NMCB3/

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