This summer, members from the United States Navy Construction Battalion from across the country are participating in the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program at Snow Mountain Ranch.
The purpose of the Innovative Readiness Program is to provide real-world training opportunities for service members to prepare them for their wartime missions while simultaneously supporting the needs of America’s under-served communities. The program was started in 1992 to aid President Clinton’s “Rebuild America” campaign.
The “Seabees,” as they’re called because of their initials CB for Construction Battalion, are working with the readiness program to accomplish several projects over the next couple of months.
Lt. Junior Grade Paul Simpson from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ELEVEN explained that the Seabees decided to partner with Innovative Readiness Training and Snow Mountain Ranch when they heard about the all the projects to get involved in.
“(Innovative Readiness Training’s) main mission is to try to combine under-served community projects needing to be done with military units that need to continue training,” Simpson said. “It’s a great partnership we’re in, and we’re happy to be here.”
Simpson recently returned from a six-month deployment in Guam and is presently joined by 13 other SeaBees at Snow Mountain Ranch, with more than 40 total expected to be there by the end of the summer.
Truman Hoffmeister, Snow Mountain Ranch’s center director, said that YMCA is always excited to have the troops come out.
“We’re happy to welcome IRT troops,” Hoffmeister said. “We love working with them. They’re hardworking, they have good energy, and our guests enjoy seeing them in action.”
A Seabees project at Snow Mountain is constructing two shade shelters to be used by the camp’s visitors.
“I came to the Navy to learn construction, and it’s been an eventful journey,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Azzim Williams. “I’ve learned so many things, and I’ve enjoyed working with other people who have a wealth of knowledge to share.”
Williams joined the Seabees in 2010, was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months, then went to Djibouti, Africa to help build a hospital. He has been with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ELEVEN for 2.5 years. He plans on being in the Navy at least 20 years before retiring.
Ricky Squire, a BU3 Builder Officer Petty, joined the Navy in 2010 and just got back from his third deployment.
“We have a saying: ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,’ Squire said. “The shade shelters and other projects we’re working on will help keep our skills sharp. It’s a wonderful experience.”
The Seabees date back to World War II when there was a huge need for military construction workers. In December of 1941, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell established the Naval Construction Battalions to have construction workers that could defend themselves in wartime. Following World War II, the Seabees were involved in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“In the past 10 years with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Seabees have been doing a lot of contingency construction, which involves building things geared for the War on Terror,” Simpson said. “Now we’re trying to get our skills back up and get more involved in doing projects that help back home.”
The Seabees have different construction goals now that they are home on American soil. This is Snow Mountain Ranch’s second summer to have military troops come out through the Innovative Readiness Program.
“We want to get more refined in what we do as construction battalions,” Simpson said. “This involves more large-scale projects and more concrete work. It also means more elevated type of activities, where you go to a second and third floor rather than just building out bases like in Afghanistan or Iraq.”
“I love being out here,” said Seabee Elizabeth Poplin. “It’s beautiful. We’re working on the side of a mountain, but it’s warm. You see snow and it’s completely different than where I did my boot camp training. It’s awesome.”
“In the past 10 years with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Seabees have been doing a lot of contingency construction, which involves building things geared for the war on terror. Now we’re trying to get our skills back up and get more involved in doing projects that help back home.”
Lt. Junior Grade Paul Simpson
United States Navy Construction Battalion