Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter awarded Chief Warrant Officer Mark Bierce, Logistics and Support Unit 2’s Combat Service Support Detachment (CSSD) officer in charge, a Bronze Star on June 5 at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek.
Bierce is one of three Seabees from his detachment of 30 who were presented this medal in the past 18 months, including Senior Chief Equipment Operator (SCW) Michael Metheny and Chief Builder (SCW) Darren Drake. All three served as officers in charge of a Combat Service Support Task Unit supporting Naval Special Warfare (NSW) operations in some of the most dangerous areas in Iraq.
Most Seabees operate as part of a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion, which consists of about 500 people. These three led groups of only about eight to 10 personnel, but were responsible for the same types of projects as a battalion, just on a smaller scale.
Some of these projects included establishing a base camp, building berthing tents, shower tents and construction of numerous Southwest Asia huts to function as Tactical Operation Centers and other essential buildings. A task unit will build about 10 structures per deployment, while a battalion may build 100.
One thing that isn’t similar between a battalion and a task unit supporting NSW operations is the operational tempo. Battalions usually operate on a strict deployment cycle. For each six or seven months they are deployed, the battalion is in homeport for the next 10 months. The average number of days away from homeport for each individual in the CSSD over the past three years is 285 days per year, according to Bierce.
“This is a job for someone who likes working outside of their comfort zone,” said Drake. “It’s a whole new ball game here. You’re still doing Seabee things, but we do SpecWar (special warfare) things too.”
Of the more than 17,000 Seabees in the Navy, fewer than 500 are assigned to Naval Special Warfare. The members of CSSD receive extra training to prepare them for the environment they’ll be working in, such as Blackwater Technical Training; Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE); Airload Planner and Tactical First Responder medical training. The in-rate training also continues, as well as a few extras. Since it’s such a small group of people responsible for supporting an entire SEAL team, each person has to be a jack of all trades and rates. The unit is responsible for each step of the mission from embarkation to logistics, vehicle maintenance and convoys.
On Drake’s deployment, he had to run convoys to pick up food from the nearest forward operating base and bring it to the camp, build a galley and set up a buffet. He was the final approval for a budget of more than $100,000.
Bierce handled more than $2.5 million in contracts, but didn’t have to build a camp from the ground up like Drake. Each deployment is different, and each presents its own set of challenges.
“All of the deployed Seabees face challenging and tough assignments -– no matter what unit they are attached to -- but I considered my Seabees to be some of the best the Navy has to offer,” said Bierce.
With only a 30 member detachment to support four SEAL teams and three other NSW units, no matter where in the world they’re training or deployed, the Seabees attached to the CSSD have to be up to the challenge.
“The SEALs depend on us —- they really rely on us to make things happen no matter what they need,” said Drake.
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Katt Whittenberger, Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Public Affairs