Seabees Build Medical Facility to Support COVID-19 Efforts in Guam

May 5, 2020Katie McCarthy
navy seabees covid-19 guam coffee or die

Navy sailors assigned to Task Force 75.5 prepare to lift a tent during construction of a 150-bed expeditionary medical facility on Naval Base Guam, April 21, 2020. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julio Rivera/U.S. Navy.

Sailors assigned to Task Force 75.5 achieved the engineering initial operating capability of a 150-bed expeditionary medical facility as part of the Defense Department’s fight against COVID-19 on Naval Base Guam, April 25.

Reaching engineering initial operating capability means the medical facility is structurally ready to perform its core medical care mission when medical staff arrives. Construction will continue until achieving full operating capability, meaning the facility is fully constructed and able to execute all of its designed tasks.

“The Seabees have been working hard through all the adversities we’ve had out here to get this up and running as soon as possible,” said Navy Lt. Matthew Harms, the operations officer for Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 Detachment Guam. “[They’re] working through the changing weather conditions — it rains two or three times a day and is very hot and humid the rest of the time — on top of learning a brand new tent system that most of our guys haven’t seen before. But the team learned quickly, and hasn’t let anything get in the way of completing the EMF on time. These guys are awesome.”

navy seabees covid-19 guam coffee or die
Navy sailors assigned to Task Force 75.5 assemble a tent during construction of a 150-bed expeditionary medical facility on Naval Base Guam, April 21, 2020. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Carpenter/U.S. Navy.

With more than 130 Seabees working to build the facility, construction began April 11 with the grading and leveling of the five-acre site. Precise leveling and ground compaction is vital due to the sensitive nature of the medical equipment.

“We started by knocking the ground down to a less than 2-percent slope,” Harms said, “then built it back up, while compacting the ground to make sure it was flat and stable for the facility.”

Following ground preparation, the team began construction of the facility’s  infrastructure April 20.

“The combined crew of [NMCB] 1 and [NMCB] 5 started going through and building up the tents into 10 different wings that will make up the medical core,” Harms said. “There are also support sites that are being built up for the EMF including fuel and water farms, a troop berthing and hygiene area, and a galley. All of those are part of the expeditionary medical facility and are required to support the approximately 400 medical and support personnel that are coming in.”

navy seabees covid-19 guam coffee or die
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Conner Stubbs, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, grades the site where an expeditionary medical facility is being built to ensure a level foundation on Naval Base Guam, April 13, 2020. Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Matthew R. White/U.S. Navy.

The Seabees were able to work as a cohesive unit due to the technical guidance provided by sailors on the Expeditionary Medical Facility Assist Team from Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command and the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute.

“We have a lot of really motivated Seabees, and the team from NEMTI, working for Guam and our brothers and sisters on the USS Theodore Roosevelt,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Petree, a quality control officer assigned to Navy Expeditionary Medical Training Institute. “We build the EMF three or four times a year as training, and we’re happy to be able to come to Guam and put our experience to good use.”

The facility is a self-contained medical care facility, enabling medical professionals to provide expanded medical capabilities, and will enable forces to be postured to support the region if a Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission is requested.

“It’s a Role 3 [medical treatment facility], so you’re going to have all the capabilities of a hospital,” Petree said. “There are operating rooms, acute care wings, essential sterilization capabilities, a medical lab and a pharmacy. It’s really going to be able to do everything you need.”

Seabees building the facility are proud to be able to contribute to the Defense Department’s COVID-19 response in Guam.

navy seabees guam coffee or die covid-19
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Loftis, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, secures insulation to an expeditionary medical facility staff berthing tent on Naval Base Guam, April 24, 2020. Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Matthew R. White/U.S. Navy.

“I think [building the EMF] is amazing,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Austinweldon, a sailor assigned to Naval Construction Battalion 1. “COVID is all around the world, and if this can save anyone’s life, I’m excited to be able to help.”

Task Group 75.5 is led by the 30th Naval Construction Regiment and is made up of personnel from Naval Construction Battalions 1 and 5, Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303, Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute and Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command.

As the command element of Task Group 75.5, the 30th Naval Construction Regiment provides command and control over all Naval Construction Force units in the 7th Fleet area of operations. It enables real-time mobility of engineering units and other assigned forces to provide expeditionary, general and limited combat engineer capabilities in response to major combat operations and contingencies, theater security cooperation plan operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and civil-military operations within the Indo-Pacific.

Navy Chief Petty Officer Matthew White is assigned to Commander Task Force 75. This article was originally published on May 4, 2020, by the Department of Defense.

Katie McCarthy
Katie McCarthy

Katie McCarthy is the managing editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. Her career in journalism began at the Columbus (Georgia) Ledger-Enquirer in 2008, where she learned to navigate the newsroom as a features reporter, copy editor, page designer, and online producer; prior to joining Coffee or Die, she worked for Outdoor Sportsman Group as an editor for Guns & Ammo magazine and their Special Interest Publications division. Katie currently lives in Indiana with her husband and two daughters.

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