Cmdr. Jonathan Nieman, left, commanding officer of NMCB-3, receives authority of Camp Shields from Cmdr. Ryan Carey, NMCB-5 commanding officer, during a ceremony in Okinawa, July 20. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Michael Lopez)

OKINAWA, Japan - U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 assumed execution of Naval Construction Force (NCF) missions from NMCB-5 in the Indo-Pacific region during a relief in place/transfer of authority (RIP/TOA) ceremony at Camp Shields in Okinawa, July 20.

A RIP/TOA marks the official completion of one unit’s deployment and the beginning of the other’s. NMCB-3 is assuming charge after NMCB-5 completed an extended deployment due to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which created a delay in efforts to return home due to stringent local, national, and international travel restrictions starting in late March.

“At this ceremony nine months ago, I said we were ready and eager to serve our fellow Seabees, our Navy and Marine Corps team, and our nation by adding our chapter to the long legacy of Seabees in the Indo-Pacific,” said Cmdr. Ryan Carey, commanding officer of NMCB-5. “That chapter was unwritten then, but now it is in the books. No one could have predicted the journey we were embarking on. Through challenges, losses, gains, pandemics and delayed reunions with family and friends, we pulled together and accomplished many things big and small. This includes achieving globally broadcast milestones, completing over 40 quality construction projects and meeting many important personal milestones along the way as well.”

Navigating quickly-changing health protection measures was difficult for many localities and units throughout the Department of Defense, but the challenge was even more complex for deployed units like NMCB-5 who needed to quickly adapt to emerging conditions to complete their assigned mission while ensuring the health of the force. Capt. Steve Stasick, commodore, 30th Naval Construction Regiment (30NCR), recognized that challenge.

“I want to congratulate the Seabees of NMCB-5 for an outstanding extended deployment,” said Stasick. “You performed admirably, meeting and overcoming all challenges. There is no standard deployment, but the obstacles presented to NMCB-5 were unforeseen merely six months ago. Your ability to succeed in your assigned tasks while flexing to support additional COVID-19 tasking was impressive. Your versatility and innovation in handling COVID-19, with no model to follow, kept Seabees safe and set an example for all subsequent battalions to follow.”

Travel restrictions were revisited in late May and NMCB-3 was given permission to relieve its sister battalion. NMCB-3 began transporting Seabees to their deployed locations in several waves. Each wave of Seabees completed a 14-day restriction of movement (ROM) period prior to deployment in the U.S. and another 14-day ROM period upon entering the area of operations.

In delivering his remarks, Cmdr. Jonathan Nieman, commanding officer of NMCB-3, addressed the collaborative effort by 30NCR, Naval Construction Group (NCG) 1, and NMCB-5 in overcoming the challenge of making the RIP/TOA possible in light of the current conditions.

“First, thank you to the staffs from 30NCR and NCG-1 who provided expert advice and support, much of it via virtual methods, throughout the relief-in-place process,” said Nieman. “You are the reason for the NCF’s rising tide of presence and influence across the Indo-Pacific. Second, and most importantly, thank you to NMCB-5 for a successful and professional turnover that has been nearly six months in the making. After nine months, we’re excited to tell you ‘you stand relieved.’ You should be proud of all that you’ve accomplished and you can return to your family and friends knowing that we will do our best to build on your success this deployment.”

NMCB-3’s first task upon arriving and completing ROM periods was to achieve an accurate turnover to officially begin its mission. A detailed turnover consisting of inspections and reviews of all equipment, supplies, projects, facilities, and civil engineering support equipment must be conducted before the incoming battalion can commence work. Once this was complete, NMCB-3 was ready to officially take charge.

“With all authorities transferred, the ambitious, proud and respectful ‘Better Than Best’ Seabees stand ready to be U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s first response for general engineering support in the area of operations,” said Nieman. “We are eager to help shape the theater conditions which support our nation’s and partner nation’s strategic interests, and to add our chapter to the long, distinguished legacy of Navy expeditionary combat forces in the Indo-Pacific theater. With that, it’s with much excitement that I can finally say ‘let’s get to work!’"

NMCB-3 is conducting construction readiness operations, major combat operations response readiness and general engineering tasking at main operating base sites in Chinhae, Republic of Korea, Guam, Diego Garcia, as well as Iwakuni and Sasebo, Japan. The battalion is conducting theater security cooperation missions in the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Marshall Islands, and throughout the Federated State of Micronesia. NMCB-3 will support exercise related construction, innovative readiness training, and other support activities in Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Thailand, and elsewhere as tasks emerge.

NMCB-3 will participate in multinational and joint service exercises. Seabees will support exercises Pacific Partnership, Hari’i Hamutuk in Timor Leste, Valiant Shield in Guam and Tinian, and a combined command post training in Chinhae and Guam.

NMCB-3 is deployed across the Indo-Pacific region conducting high-quality construction to support U.S. and partner nations to strengthen partnerships, deter aggression, and enable expeditionary logistics and naval power projection. The battalion stands ready to complete assigned tasking, support humanitarian aid/disaster relief and major combat operations throughout the area of operations.

Cmdr. Jonathan Nieman delivers his remarks during the ceremony. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Michael Lopez)