9th Navy Construction Regiment Prepares for Turnover
17 Aug. 2006
By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW) Daniel Sanford
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq - The 9th Navy Construction Regiment (NCR), the first reserve regimental headquarters to be deployed to Iraq under its own pennant, is due to rotate out of country within the next few weeks.
Over the course of its six-month deployment to Camp Fallujah, the 9th NCR provided command and control of four military engineering units, including Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB) 25 and 40, the 9th Engineering Support Battalion and the 46th Engineering Combat Battalion.
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Four Zero (NMCB-40) prepare a site for the construction of a bridge. NMCB-40 is one of four military engineering units that the 9th Navy Construction Regiment (NCR) has provided command and control for in Al Anbar, Iraq, during this six month deployment. The 9th NCR is completing their deployment as the first reserve regimental headquarters to be deployed to Iraq under its own pennant.(Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class John P. Curtis.)
"We've done projects throughout the Al-Anbar Province that are very diverse," said Navy Cmdr. Mark Bellis, 9th NCR's operations officer. "We created and built more than 40 combat outposts, rehabilitated more than 20 Iraqi police stations, repaired more than 650 road craters, and drilled two water wells that provide fresh water to Iraqi security forces camps.
"We've also done some maintenance all over the Al-Anbar Province, such as repairing concrete on runways and repairing electrical and water systems, both on and off base."
The regiment also designed and built more than 300 Southwest Asia Huts (SWAHuts). These 16-foot-by-32 foot plywood and aluminum-covered dwellings are now used extensively by Iraqi security and coalition forces.
However, according to Bellis, the most rewarding aspect of the job was the opportunity to train Iraqi army engineers and preparing them to one day be self-sufficient.
"We've taught them how to operate heavy equipment and use construction techniques so they can build their own camps for the Iraqi Army," said Bellis. "They've partnered with us for the past three months doing road repairs and providing security and force protection for various Iraqi army camps."
9th NCR's Command Master Chief (SCW) Bruce Blankenship agrees.
"The most satisfying job we've had is working for the Iraqis," he said. "We're building for them and will, one day, turn everything over to the Iraqis."
Being the first reserve unit to command a regiment was not difficult for the 9th regiment, mainly because of the quality of Sailor attached to the unit, said Blankenship.
"We have an outstanding group of people," he said. "Out here, nobody knows if you're active or reserve. My guys did a tremendous job carrying on after we turned over from the regiment that preceded us."
One of those Sailors, Builder 1st Class (SCW/FMF) John Wilkes, says his work with the 9th regiment was extremely rewarding.
"For me the defining moment is knowing that my part of the job is to make sure the material gets to our guys in a timely manner and brings them home quickly from behind the wire."
And behind the wire still lies one of the most dangerous places in the world. But the 9th NCR and its units ensured that the jobs were always completed.
"The Al-Anbar Province is a very dangerous place that requires due diligence, but we've still been able to do quite a bit of construction," said Bellis. "We've done a great job from the start and never missed a beat."