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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2021

NMCB-5 Completes Cohesive COMMEX with 9th ESB

By Mass Communicatio Specialist 1st Class Stephane Belcher, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 Public Affairs

The U.S. Navy Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 completed a joint Communications Exercise (COMMEX) with Marines assigned to 9th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB) onboard Camp Shields, Okinawa, Japan Nov. 23.

The joint COMMEX allowed the battalion to self-evaluate its ability to use multiple types of communication equipment to practice communicating in a degraded environment. They proved they could execute command and control of the battalion's detail sites across the Indo-Pacific region and effectively send reports to the 30th Naval Construction Regiment.

"It provides the commander a snapshot of his battalion's current readiness to operate, should he need to transition into the 'Fight Tonight,'" said 1st Lt. Brandon Jackson, NMCB-5's Marine Corps liaison officer.

The Marines from the 9th ESB communications department simulated a scenario that degraded communication lines. The idea was to get the Seabees to use other means to receive information typically provided from higher headquarters and subordinate units.

"I was able to see things from an outside perspective and identify potential gaps in how the Seabees currently operate concerning the evolving battlespace," said Jackson. "This, in turn, allowed the staff to drive the battalion to experience unfamiliar concepts. Concepts such as minimal communication windows with subordinate commands, new reporting formats, and an emphasis heavily placed on actions needing to be taken via implicit tasking and following commander's intent."

The Marines also executed a proof of concept to reach an adjacent unit over voice and data through the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) assets, essentially an ultra-high frequency satellite communication system. It's NMCB-5's communication department's responsibility to use other communications methods to talk to the detail sites, such as Tinian and Marshall Islands if MUOS goes down.

"[The Marines] did a ton of work in trying to come up with a scenario to test and stress the battalion," said Ensign Ethan Huber, NMCB-5's communication officer. "It was definitely ambitious."

This exercise involved more assets and complexity than previous COMMEXs. There were more radios and antennas. It involved collaborating with higher, adjacent, and supporting commands at various locations without the support of NMCB-5's organic communication department. The exercise demonstrated NMCB-5's ability to use the skills they learned during the homeport training cycle.

"We set a much higher goal," added Huber. "We were challenging ourselves, and it's also a much more accurate reflection of what we would actually have to do, in reality, if something were to happen. It was a much more realistic way to test our capabilities."

Throughout the exercise, the Seabees were able to identify challenges, allowing them to think through potential problems; allowing for lessons learned to tailor future evolutions towards improving specific tasks.

The U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to NMCB-5 are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific, strengthening their network of alliances and partnerships, and providing general engineering and civil support to joint operational forces. Homeported out of Port Hueneme, California, NMCB-5 has 13 detail sites deployed throughout the U.S. and Indo-Pacific area of operations.