Sailors assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 precisely, deadly pilon into the sea floor as part of a pier damage repair scenario aboard the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story during Large Scale Exercise 2021 and overwhelming force worldwide across three naval commands, five numbered fleets and 17 time zones. (Marlon Goodchild / US Navy)
(Tribune News Service) – As tensions rose and the enemy continued to poke American forces in the Navy’s global scenario of the 2021 large-scale exercise, news came from the fleet – perhaps even from the Secretary of Defense – that enemy forces had left a port .
It was up to the Little Creek Navy Expeditionary Combat Command sailors to secure and secure it – whether for landing supplies or humanitarian aid, or as a base for the fleet.
The large-scale exercise is designed to test the Navy’s ability to respond to a fast-paced, global threat from an enemy force. It includes everyone from the newest sailors from boot camp on more than two dozen ships to the three- and four-star admirals and generals who command the five fleets and three participating Marine Expeditionary Forces.
Much of what they do was known, such as the repairs divers made on a pier in Little Creek a day and a half after the fleet called to secure the scenario’s simulated harbor, said Chief Petty Officer Carlos Hernandez of Underwater Construction Team One .
It was a little less – and what made the exercise so important in his opinion – was getting all of the team’s gear on a nearby landing craft utility. This is the updated version of the ships that delivered tanks to the beaches of Normandy and countless Pacific islands during World War II, and it was a chance for Hernandez and his team to work with combat experts from a Navy Beachmasters unit on drilling a beach landing pad an enemy shore.
Hernandez and his divers tested some new pier repair techniques. One of these included a kevlar sleeve and mortar to support failing piles. The other, a two-legged metal support to support some of the weight that aging stakes could no longer support.
On the pier, Petty Officer 3rd Class Palacio Jauregui took the weight of the feed line for a hydraulic drill and stood ready to move this heavy drill to a new position.
The divers knew what to do because shortly after arriving on shore, which the Beachmasters had secured, sailors from another Little Creek group, Mobile Dive and Salvage Unit Two, had their underwater drone around the piers.
Just hours after the mission to secure the port, MDSU-2 sailors piloting this drone discovered something behind one of the piers that they did not like.
For Lt. Jason Burke of UCT 1, who was tasked with coordinating the work of the various expedition sailors in the simulated harbor, this meant an early and quick decision: to bring in another team of specialist divers, the team from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2.
They had played an important role in disarming IEDs in Afghanistan, but just as the large-scale exercise itself reflected a shift in strategic focus to threats from major military powers, EOD 2’s mission is now shifting to more traditional maritime work, neutralizing mines and others Underwater and coastal explosives.
The drone drivers from MDSU 2 had meanwhile found another challenge: a training aid that resembled a 12-meter-long sunken boat that blocked access to one of the piers. They had to remove it either way.
“The whole idea is to synchronize our work,” said Cmdr. Steven Cabos of MDSU 2, who had an early role in planning a first but pandemic-postponed version of the large-scale exercise.
While drilling to remove underwater hazards is old hat for MDSU divers, working side by side with other specialist expedition sailors is less so. It means finding out who is doing what when and whether, for example, the task of one group could stand in the way of another.
Pier-side, in Little Creek, the large-scale exercise is a chance to better understand what other sailors can do and so coordinate efforts with them to accomplish the larger mission of securing a harbor, Rear Admiral Christopher Asselta said , the expedition member deputy combat command of the Naval Construction Force.
Away from the piers, however, Asselta and other high-ranking commanders must keep track of other expedition sailors, some of whom are repairing an airfield, others are setting up a tank terminal on a North Carolina beach, and still others are dredging a canal in another part of the Little Creek base.
Sailors from Mobile Unit 6 for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 6, which is also stationed in Little Creek, are meanwhile at sea with the USS Arlington and concentrate on mine clearance.
For Asselta and the admirals higher up the chain of command, the large-scale exercise is a way of understanding and responding to the ever-changing challenges seafarers face, as well as stop-and-go progress, which is often central to practicing feature of the maritime dispute.
It also means drilling into something that may or may not be required of the large-scale exercise: the sudden focus in a global competition that requires completely new tasks and uses.
“It’s called agile,” he said.
© 2021 daily press.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Subscribe to Stars and Stripes
Only 99c per week!