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Seabees to Build New Runway in Kenya

by John Reed on December 28, 2011

The military’s legendary expeditionary construction units, the Navy’s Seabees are set to return to their World War II roots this spring when a construction detail Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 heads to Africa to greatly expand the runways at a remote Kenyan airstrip to allow it to handle large cargo planes.

Sailors from the detail will haul their own heavy construction equipment, such as a a mobile concrete batching plant, pavers and steam rollers to a remote part of the African nation to expand an austere airstrip into one capable of handling large jet aircraft.

While the Seabees declined to comment on where the airfield is, how large the new runway will be or even the specific types aircraft that will be able to use it, they did tell DT that this is the largest project they’ve worked on in a long time. The project is so large that the sailors are bringing their own asphalt prepping [batching] plant with them; something the Seabees haven’t done in a long time.

“This is the first time we’ve set up a batch plant up, this is a newly procured system, the Seabees haven’t done their own asphalt batching — the process of making asphalt — for several years; its almost an extinct skill,” Lt. Cdr. Bill Wohead, Naval Construction Battalion 3’s operations officer told DT recently. “We’re the first (Seabee) battalion to go through all this training, we’re the first battalion to use this brand new equipment and we’re the first battalion that’s going to use it all in concert to create a project in the middle of nowhere.”

“If you’re gonna buy [only] 500 tons of asphalt you’re not going to batch 500 tons of asphalt, it’s cheaper to just buy 500 tons of asphalt and then just pave it” rather than making your own, added Cdr. Scott Raymond, the unit’s CO. “This is the first time in a while, that there’s been a project” big enough to warrant bringing this type of heavy equipment along.

Building this massive runway almost from scratch is a throwback to the Seabees World War II roots, adds Raymond.

“If you look back at the history of the Seabees, in World War II, the claim to fame was, we built runways where there was nothing,” said Raymond. “It’s interesting to return back to the roots where we started more than 60 years ago.”

The Seabees couldn’t say who will be using the new airfield, however, the mission comes on the heels of news that the U.S. Air Force is flying drones out of a new base in Southeast Ethiopia and that 100 or so “combat equipped” U.S. troops are operating in the region to help local governments hunt down the leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army — a terrorist group that has ravaged the countryside of Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and other central African nations.

This runway-building mission to Kenya is one of many similar projects the battalion’s construction detachments will be doing in Africa and the Middle East during an upcoming deployment to Rota, Spain.

In fact, you can bet that you’ll see more of this type mission in Africa, a place where the U.S. is trying to increase its presence in a low-key way, as the wars wind down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Construction missions like these and efforts by U.S. troops to train local militaries often provide great intelligence on terrorists operating in Africa.

“I certainly see, as you start drawing down in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will allow the Naval Construction forces to concentrate on theater security cooperation” missions in Africa, said Raymond. He’s referring to missions that the Seabees do to work with local governments to build everything from roads and bridges and buildings to installing HVAC systems and drilling water wells.

“We’re set up and trained to do the whole spectrum of construction operations,” adds Wohead.

For this particular mission, the Seabees are going to have to rely on their expeditionary skills to provide their own housing, command and control facilities and security at the remote runway.

“We have the ability to move ourselves and our equipment, we obviously can build, we have all the internal communications equipment to operate all the command and control in a very decentralized way, and the last part is; we provide for our own defense organically, each battalion has crew served weapons” such as .50-caliber heavy machine guns, Mk 19 grenade launchers and M240G machine guns, said Raymond.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

crackedlenses December 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Hate Bush all you want, Obama hasn't seemed to change much. Sure, we finally left Iraq, but we seem to be building bases and deploying troops and fighting brush fires much as we have the past 50 or so years…..

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Nick T. December 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm

When people ask me what good Obama did, I tell them he fought terrorism better than Bush. The one thing he didn't promise to do. ; )

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Musson1 December 29, 2011 at 8:17 am

And don't forget the war Obama launched in Libya. No other President in living memory would have launched a war without Congressional approval. Bush, Clinton, hell even LBJ would have asked for a resolution. But, Obama is above petty things like that.

Obama does not like Republicans and has no love for the concept of a Republic.

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blight December 31, 2011 at 8:18 pm

He's building on the chutzpah of previous presidents.

He might even have a little Nixon in him…scary eh?

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Bill S January 2, 2012 at 11:01 am

Petty things like, THE CONSTITUTION? What a moron!

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Ian N January 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Poor Memory Musson1? What about Clinton’s 1999 attacks against Yugoslavia, 1995 deployment to Bosnia, or Bush’s 1990 deployment to Panama, all of which lacked congressional authorization. In fact, nearly all presidents in living memory have stated that when congress actually did give its approval of military actions, that such approval was absolutely unnecessary. Obama is merely following the tradition of nearly ALL presidents of asserting the authority of the executive office to wage war without needing congressional approval. George Washington himself began the tradition by maintaining that he could prosecute war against Native Americans without needing Congressional approval.

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Uranium238 December 28, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Heck, Obama needs to land somewhere to visit his relatives and pick up his birth certificate from good ole home!

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WHAT December 28, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Idiot!

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Mark December 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm

You must drink the Barack Kool-Aide WHAT!

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Howe December 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Don't be ridiculous!
he doesn't need a runway.

just give him a poorly packed parachute and push him out the door.

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Lance December 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Well nice to help our allies Kenya BUT waste of money.

Seebees are one of best and brightest units in the whole Navy. Besides M-2s and Mk-19s they also have M-16A2s and M-9s and reserve units still have M-60s with 240s.

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blight December 31, 2011 at 8:19 pm

So…what do their small arms have to do with the construction mission?

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Musson1 December 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Bob Hope was performing at a Seebees base the South Pacific in WWII.

"So, I hear you fellas build the roads that our Marines attack on," Hope joked.

From the audience a reply came back, "Hell, we build the roads that the Japanese retreat on!"

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Stephen Russell December 28, 2011 at 7:46 pm

For our Units sent to Cent Africa this past year I wonder.
Then why build it?? Cargo & for military use.

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rob December 29, 2011 at 9:34 am

Here we go again! Kay-Ser-La-Ser-La…

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Egad December 29, 2011 at 9:50 am

Manda Bay?

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Guest December 29, 2011 at 10:15 am

Kick Ass!

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EJ257 December 29, 2011 at 11:47 am

Are the Navy’s Seebees like the Army’s Corp of Engineers?

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Mike Bu December 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm

We (seabees) build FOBS, COPS, Roads, Bridges, Runways, Lodging facilities, and conduct Camp Maintenance on established facilities. Missions include providing drinking water to local nationals as humanitarian projects with water well teams or building schools for LN also. Seabees do very little "combat engineering" like the Army but "Can Do" if required. Our officers are Civil Engineers by degree.

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blight December 31, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Basically the stuff we paid Betchel and KBR to do?

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TF CB7V December 29, 2011 at 10:47 pm

The SEABEES & the Army's Corps of Engineers are similar. The Army has an mos 12B which are combat engineers. They typically set and clear mined areas. The other engineer mos' perform pretty much the same missions as the Bees just a different branch of service.

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tiger December 30, 2011 at 11:21 pm

As much as I like hearts & minds….. If they want practice, let them pave I-95 or something.
Pave some airstrips in Alaska? Help build a border fence?

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EA1 February 29, 2012 at 8:44 am

Haha funny you said that tiger… two years ago I was in the border with Mexico in TX building a pretty cool fence

EA1
"We build, We fight"

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CoCowboy692000 March 13, 2012 at 11:10 am

This is crap… Why are we building a country when we need to build OUR country???

UHHH…. SHOVEL READY JOBS….. ETC ETC ETC… WE HAVE NO BIZ BEING IN KENYA… NONE!!! THERE IS NO MANDATE. NO APPROVAL FROM CONGRESS THAT I HAVE READ…

OUR POTUS IS A LIAR AND A TRAITOR…. PERHAPS THIS IS WHERE HE INTENDS TO ESCAPE TO WHEN WE VOTE HIS BUTT OUT!!! QUICK!!! SOMEONE GRAB THE KEYS TO AF 1 & 2… I still want to see this SOB PROSECUTED! He has sent BILLIONS of America's treasure to Kenya…. The bas terd child that he is….

Sorry – I get so damned mad about him I can't avoid the caps….

But – The SeaBee's are AWESOME

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bxsxbs May 15, 2012 at 10:56 am

Kony is western uganda, he has never been a problem to kenya, because kenya is on the eastern side of uganda. but kenya has a problem with al-shaabab

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texas ranger October 3, 2012 at 4:53 pm

a problem they have all but solved on their own..

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