RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas - Homeland security enforcement efforts along the U.S. / Mexico border in South Texas were dramatically improved thanks to a recently completed construction project executed by U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133, based in Gulfport, Miss.
The homeland security construction mission was coordinated by Joint Task Force North, the U.S. Northern Command unit tasked to support the nation’s federal law enforcement agencies’ counterdrug and homeland security efforts. JTF North, which has no assigned forces, solicits volunteer units from all four branches of the Department of Defense, from both active duty and reserve components, to provide the military support requested by the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security agencies.
The Seabees, part of Naval Construction Group Two, volunteered to construct 0.82 miles of roadways, along with all required water drainage features and a concrete low water crossing, in a remote rural area located adjacent to the infamous Rio Grande River. The mission, based on a request for assistance submitted by the U.S. Border Patrol, Rio Grande Valley Sector, will enhance the federal law enforcement agency’s efforts to curtail the illicit activities conducted by transnational criminal organizations along the U.S. / Mexico border.
“The new roadway will give agents the much needed lateral access required to patrol the Rio Grande in what is considered one of our most challenging patrol areas,” said U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Supervisor Enrique Mendiola, Jr., of the Rio Grande Sector Communications Division.
The actual project site is a well-known illicit drug and illegal alien smuggling corridor.
“The infrastructure that has been provided as a result of this project shuts down a major smuggling corridor in the Rio Grande City area of responsibility that previously was exploited by transnational criminal organizations,” said Mendiola.
In preparation for their two-month deployment in early July, the unit conducted pre-mission coordination meetings and site visits. Prior to start of the construction effects mission, the entire unit also completed mandatory JTF North legal and safety training.
In contrast to most military engineering projects executed during combat operations, the Seabees were required to accomplish their mission with strict adherence to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) approved plans. An on-site USACE engineer monitored the project and ensured that the Seabees complied with specifications and all applicable civilian road construction standards.
“This mission was a complete success! The unit constructed 100% of what they were tasked to complete in full compliance with the approved design and the environmental restrictions,” said U.S. Army Major Aubrey D. Semien II, JTF North engineer mission planner.
JTF North supplied the Seabees with state-of-the-art contracted engineer equipment; the contract included all required equipment maintenance support and necessary pre-mission training. The project provided the unit with applicable individual and collective training opportunities.
“This project provided us excellent training value above and beyond that of typical deployment projects. Contingency missions overseas don't often afford us the opportunity to work directly with engineers or to utilize detailed plans and specifications, as we were able to do with this project," said U.S. Navy Lt. Kyle Schlais, NMCB 133 Detail Officer in Charge,.
“The professionalism displayed by the entire organization, from the most junior Seabee to the mission commander and the supporting battalion staff, greatly contributed to the overall success of the mission,” said Semien.