Building an Enduring Presence

By fostering collaboration and enhancing relationships with host nations, U.S. Navy Construction Civic Action Details are an invaluable aspect of the nation’s international strategy.

 

By Lt. j.g. Frances Hunter, CEC, M.SAME, USN, and Lt. James A. Harder, CEC, M.SAME, USN

   


 Builder Constructionman Tyler Richey works with a Yapese apprentice to replace sheet metal roofing at the Maap Early Childhood Education Center while deployed on a Construction Civic Action Detail to the Federated States of Micronesia. U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY BUILDER 2ND CLASS SUSAN JOHNSTON

By fostering collaboration and enhancing relationships with host nations, U.S. Navy Construction Civic Action Details are an invaluable aspect of the nation’s international strategy.Builder Constructionman Tyler Richey works with a Yapese apprentice to replace sheet metal roofing at the Maap Early Childhood Education Center while deployed on a Construction Civic Action Detail to the Federated States of Micronesia. U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY BUILDER 2ND CLASS SUSAN JOHNSTON


 

The “Pivot to the Pacific” has brought renewed focus on the U.S. Navy’s strategy to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief throughout the region.

At the forefront of this effort are large ship humanitarian missions like Pacific Partnership. Each year, a multinational force led by the Navy spends several months visiting countries in the Pacific, provid­ing medical and dental care, training host nation personnel, and improving local health and education infrastructure through engineering projects. The overarching goal is to improve the interoperability of the region's military forces, governments, and humanitarian organizations during disaster relief operations.

Complementing these large group exercises are many smaller missions that endure throughout the year. Like Pacific Partnership, these smaller missions also are part of the Humanitarian Assistance Program (authorized by Title 10 U.S.C., Section 2561). Missions are executed by various branches of service, sometimes as part of international exercises.

U.S. Navy Seabees execute a specific type of enduring mission—the Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD), or “see-kad.”

 

RELATIONSHIPS ACROSS THE GLOBE

During a seven-month deployment from January to July 2015, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 deployed CCADs to the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Seabees on these details got a first-hand look at how CCADs directly support host nation needs as well as U.S. interests in the Pacific.

A CCAD is a “hearts and minds” mission. Seabees build U.S.-funded health and education infrastructure projects, provid­ing sustainable capacity improvements. As a small unit of 20 to 25 Seabees, a CCAD can shift locations to spread benefits to as many communities as possible. CCAD missions are also an opportunity to build relation­ships with partner military organizations. In three locations (Cambodia, Philippines and Timor-Leste), Seabees work closely with the host nation military force.

 


In addition to local construction opera­tions, CCADs frequently coordinate with larger international military exercises, including Pacific Partnership and Balikatan. While Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian exercise, Balikatan is a military-to-military training exercise for U.S. and Philippine forces. Balikatan 2015 included more than 5,000 Philippine troops and 6,000 U.S. military members.


 

ENHANCING LOCAL CAPABILITIES

Seabees with NMCB 11 during the first half of 2015 manned CCADs in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Both coun­tries have a Compact of Free Association with the United States, through which the United States is responsible for military defense. Since there is no independent military in these countries, the CCADs focus on providing community members with employable skills.

Local apprentices work alongside Seabees to learn construction trades. Because citizens of Compact of Free Association countries are eligible to join the U.S. military, Seabees also tutor local students interested in taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam. Under the compacts, the United States provides financial aid to the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Both countries remain economically fragile with limited employment opportunities; the skills locals can learn from the Seabees can be a valuable asset.

Each of the two countries provides unique challenges. The CCAD Marshall Islands is an enduring mission site; different Seabee units rotate in and out to provide a constant presence. Seabees live at the U.S. Army Garrison - Kwajalein Atoll, but frequently travel to adjacent islands. During this year’s deployment, Seabees renovated the Gugeegue medical dispensary, constructed exercise stations on Ennubirr and Ebeye, and ran apprenticeship and tutoring programs. The sailors also constructed the Camp Hamilton Beach Pavilion for the garrison and assisted with maintenance projects and tropical storm preparations. In contrast, the CCAD Federated States of Micronesia does not have an endur­ing mission site. Instead, Seabees rotate between Pohnpei, Yap, Kosrae and Chuuk to ensure that geographically dispersed island states all benefit from the program. To maximize logistical flexibility, Seabees live in hotels and rent equipment locally. This year, NMCB 11 and follow-on unit NMCB 1 established the CCAD site in Yap and completed tasked work including renovating two early childhood education centers and repainting four village health clinics. Upcoming work in Yap includes constructing new bathroom facilities at three village schools.

  

SUCCESSFUL IMPACT

In the past 10 years, CCADs in the Pacific have built or renovated nearly 65 schools in five countries, more than 25 health facilities, six community centers and four water wells. CCADs also run community programs ranging from medical education outreach to tutoring—providing intangible community benefits.

In addition to local construction opera­tions, CCADs frequently coordinate with larger international military exercises, including Pacific Partnership and Balikatan. While Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian exercise, Balikatan is a military-to-military training exercise for U.S. and Philippine forces. Balikatan 2015 included more than 5,000 Philippine troops and 6,000 U.S. military members.

Partnering small CCADs with larger exercises is beneficial for all parties. With the Seabees on the ground longer than other participants, they can coordinate projects before others arrive and follow up after the exercise concludes. In between the large exercises, the CCADs provide an ongoing presence in countries where the United States does not have permanent bases. In both Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia, the CCAD is the only continuous land-based U.S. military presence in the country. By their nature, CCADs are well-suited to coordinate with non-governmental organizations and local civil authorities, helping to complement limitations that can be inherent in the shorter duration of large-ship exercises. 

 

Seabees with Construction Civic Action Detail Marshall Islands place concrete for the Camp Hamilton Beach Pavilion at Kwajalein Atoll. U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY BUILDER 1ST CLASS GARNETT WHITMIRE

Seabees with Construction Civic Action Detail Marshall Islands place concrete for the Camp Hamilton Beach Pavilion at Kwajalein Atoll. U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY BUILDER 1ST CLASS GARNETT WHITMIRE


 

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

CCADs, however, do share the challenges of many planned humanitarian engage­ment missions. As noted in a 2013 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies titled “U.S. Navy Humanitarian Assistance in an Age of Austerity,” objec­tives for humanitarian missions can be difficult to trace from the strategic to the operational to the tactical level.

It is hard to determine whether reno­vating a local school (a tactical objective) succeeded in increasing local education levels (an operational objective) and improving regional stability (a strategic objective). Moreover, strategic goals can be affected by a variety of factors, further complicating evaluation of how effective individual missions are.

CCADs fall under the Pacific Theater Security Cooperation Plan, which includes a broad range of activities intended to shape regions to prevent conflict and promote U.S. interests without force. Data collection on the impact of CCAD projects would help demonstrate long-term mission effective­ness, such as the number of patients seen at a new health clinic over five years. The Center for Strategic and International Studies report also noted that humanitar­ian engagement missions are hampered by insufficient and highly regulated funding. CCADs are subject to the same restric­tions. Although most logistical costs are funded from the Navy’s operations and maintenance account, construction proj­ect materials are purchased with the over­seas humanitarian, disaster and civic aid funding line. These funds are restricted to certain activities. For instance, a new health clinic can be built with overseas humani­tarian, disaster and civic aid funds, but not furnished. Different funding sources have different approval timelines, further complicating the planning process for new CCAD projects and deployments.

  

A VALUABLE ASSET

Seabee CCAD missions are an effective way to make sustainable capacity improve­ments in Pacific communities through humanitarian construction and civic action programs. CCADs also enable military-to-military training with partner nation defense forces to prepare for future large-scale humanitarian and relief missions.

By providing a positive U.S. presence and executing projects that promote commu­nity stability, CCADs support strategic “soft power” goals in the Pacific. Although there are challenges, they can be overcome, and CCADs will remain a valuable asset in America’s rebalance to the Pacific.

  


 

Lt. j.g. Frances Hunter, CEC, M.SAME, USN, is Officer-in- Charge, Construction Civic Action Detail Federated States of Micronesia, and Lt. James A. Harder, CEC, M.SAME, USN, is Officer-in-Charge, Construction Civic Action Detail Marshall Islands, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11. They can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..