Lawmakers back plan to shift personnel to Seabee base

U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), are supporting a U.S. Navy plan to station additional personnel at the Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport this year.

The Navy has informed the Mississippi lawmakers of its intent to relocate the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14 (NMCB) to Gulfport, effective Oct. 1, to enhance and standardize skills and readiness training to support the Naval Construction Force. The permanent duty station plan is expected to affect a dozen officer and enlisted billets, with an estimated annual payroll of more than $1 million. The plan would also involve 31 officer and 546 enlisted selected reserve personnel.

The NMCB specializes in general engineering and limited combat engineering capabilities. It conducts engineering operations in support of combat operations, in addition to disaster recovery operations and contingency public works support during emergencies.

Last October, the Navy announced its plan to transfer two officer billets and 17 enlisted billets from the Seventh Naval Construction Regiment to Gulfport, as well as one officer billet and another 11 enlisted billets from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 27. These personnel moves are also expected to be effective Oct. 1.

The Gulfport base’s ability to support additional personnel has been enhanced by the recent construction of a new medical clinic, which was funded through $34.7 million in FY2012 military construction appropriations supported by Cochran, Wicker and Palazzo. Cochran first raised awareness of the need for a new clinic during the FY2011 budget cycle and advocated for military construction then.

Seabee and Navy facilities at Gulfport and the Stennis Space Center were also improved through more than $277 million that Cochran worked to secure to rebuild facilities following Hurricane Katrina. Another $131.7 million was provided for Navy housing at Gulfport, Stennis Space Center in Hancock County and the Naval Air Station at Meridian.

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