Seabees Celebrate Mid-Deployment, Stay Focused

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Seabees and Sailors assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 celebrated their deployment's midway point June 17 with sports activities, food, and games in Afghanistan.

On Camp Leatherneck, Seabees had the opportunity to take some time off of work and enjoy volleyball, corn hole (beanbag toss), wrestling in sumo-suits, Frisbee, a dunk tank, a bench press competition, and a pull-up and dip competition.

The games and sports activities were followed by a meal served by the battalion's Chiefs and Officers. Door prizes were awarded to ranks E-5 and below whose names were randomly drawn, and winners from the earlier competitions were announced and posed for photos before cake was served.

A water balloon fight capped off the day's events.

All events on Camp Leatherneck were planned and coordinated by the battalion's 1st Class Petty Officer's Mess.

Detachments spread over various locations in Afghanistan held similar celebrations of their own, and those that have not yet are planning them for the near future.

According to Cmdr. Lore Aguayo, commanding officer of NMCB-11, an over-the-hump party is the way that Seabees traditionally celebrate the halfway point of a deployment. "Even though we are on a contingency deployment to Afghanistan, we were not about to break Seabee tradition, in particular to celebrate the numerous exceptional accomplishments the Seabees of NMCB-11 have completed," said Aguayo.

Equipment Operator Constructionman Lashonda P. Bridges, originally from Chicago, summed up the general consensus of the Seabees when she stated that the over the hump celebration was "a good morale booster."

Families and friends of NMCB-11 in their homeport of Gulfport, Miss., also celebrated the occasion. The battalion's Family Readiness Group (FRG) grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and provided activities for children of deployed Seabees such as a bouncy-house, a water-slide, and water balloon fights at Seabee Lake on Naval Construction Battalion Center, Gulfport.

"It is an official recognition that we, our wives, husbands and significant others, have made it halfway," said FRG Advisor and husband to Aguayo, Jeff Campbell. "It reminds everyone that our loved ones will be home soon and that if they've weathered the challenges of separation, managed their households and contended with periods of loneliness thus far, they will make it to the finish line."

Tessa Grimes, an ombudsman for the battalion explained that an over-the-hump celebration serves two purposes for families of deployed service members. "In the beginning of the deployment, it gives the spouse an attainable goal, something to look forward to. After reaching the half way point, it gives us all a boost in confidence. We know we have made it this far; we 'can do' the rest!"

NMCB-11 deployed earlier this year and has completed a significant amount of work throughout Afghanistan. Some of their completed projects include multiple water-wells, an advisor compound for Marines who are advising Afghan Uniformed Police and a recruit training center for Afghanistan Army recruits.

Many projects are ongoing such as the Dwyer road construction project in which Seabees are partnered with the Afghan National Army working toward repairing and improving large stretches of road in Helmand Province, and helicopter landing zones which Seabees are constructing in partnership with Italian coalition forces in Farah Province.

"As I look back at our operations for the first half of the deployment, I am amazed at how our Seabees have used their dedication and ingenuity to overcome the challenges that often face us in a contingency deployment and have safely executed every mission we have been tasked to carry out," stated Aguayo.

In addition to completing and continuing work on a multitude of projects, NMCB-11 Seabees continue to strive for personal and professional excellence. Fifty-nine Seabees advanced in the petty officer ranks and 50 Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist qualifications have been earned to this point.

Just like all American service members serving in a contingency environment, Seabees know they must remain focused on their mission and avoid complacency. Though returning home to family, friends, and the freedom and comforts of the country they defend are something all will welcome when that moment arrives, NMCB-11 Seabees will continue to employ the skills, methods, and procedures that safely and successfully propelled them through the first half of the deployment.

Loved ones will continue to support their service members from afar and continue to look forward to their safe return home. "The main concern has always been the safety of our Seabees, but as we pass the half way mark, most are focusing on homecoming," said Grimes.

Campbell added, "With the inevitable fatigue that sets in as deployments progress, combined with the heat of the desert region, we hope that our men and women will find ways to deal with those challenges, avoid any injury, and stay positive all the way through the plane ride home."

"I am extremely proud of our Seabees," exclaimed Aguayo. "Their 'can do' attitude and their understanding of the difference they are making in our collective ISAF efforts in Afghanistan drive all of their actions."

Homeported in Gulfport, Miss., NMCB-11 is deployed to Afghanistan to conduct general, mobility, survivability engineering operations, defensive operations, Afghan National Army partnering and detachment of units in combined/joint operations area - Afghanistan in order to enable the neutralization of the insurgency and support improved governance and stability operations.

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