USA: 1NCD Decommissioned

1NCD Decommissioned

After more than a decade of overseeing Navy Seabee efforts around the world, the First Naval Construction Division (1NCD) was decommissioned May 31 during a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk. 

Rear Admiral Mark A. Handley, the last 1NCD commander, retired during the ceremony after 32 years of Navy service. The guest speaker was Admiral William E. Gortney, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Located at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek/Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va., 1NCD was commissioned on Aug. 9, 2002. Rear Adm. Handley noted that during the entire 11 years of 1NCD’s existence, the country has been at war.

“Over the past decade, this division has prepared Seabee regiments, battalions, maintenance units, and underwater construction teams for combat deployments. By every measure, over 180 deployments, of which 110 were combat deployments, these units, these Seabees, Navy Sailors selflessly serving our nation, have all been heroically successful.”

Commenting on 1NCD’s accomplishments during this time, Adm. Gortney said,

“You knocked it out of the park since 2002.”

“The First Naval Construction Division was what we needed when we needed it most. But as we look to the future, we know we are going to face a challenging world which will be dangerous in traditional and new ways,” Rear Adm. Handley added.

Rear Adm. Handley stated that the decommissioning and merger with NECC accomplishes three things. “First and foremost, it will align the Naval Construction Force with the Navy and allow better access and utilization of our force for the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as joint forces. Second, it will eliminate a layer in the organization of the Navy and be far more efficient. A fiscal reality that we must face head-on. Third, this will fully realize the Navy’s vision started back in 2006, to have a single type commander for expeditionary forces in the Navy, and Seabees will be fully integrated into the type commander,” he said.

The 1NCD staff will be integrated into Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). Some 1NCD functions have been transferred to the newly created Naval Construction Groups (NCGs) in Gulfport, Miss. and Port Hueneme, Calif., which are now the East and West Coast continuity for the NCF.

The ceremony concluded with the 1NCD colors being retired, and “Seabee fly-by,” a parade of Seabee heavy construction vehicles that rumbled past the reviewing stand.

Rear Adm. Handley was commissioned through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Program at Villanova University in 1981. He served as commander of 1NCD since Oct. 23, 2009 and previously served as vice commander Navy Installations Command and director of Shore Readiness for Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Logistics). During his career he also served as commanding officer of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 and 22nd Naval Construction Regiment.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal during his retirement ceremony.

Since it’s commissioning, 1NCD has overseen a wide range of wartime, peacetime, humanitarian and disaster relief efforts around the world. 1NCD deployed thousands of Seabees to Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. That same year, 1NCD also deployed to the region as a command element for the Marine Engineer Group (MEG) in support of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Seabee accomplishments included constructing a 20-acre airfield parking apron, two munitions storage areas, a 48,000 square-foot concrete pad, six bridges and five culvert crossings, a 32-kilometer road, and a 14,400-person prisoner-of-war camp.

1NCD Seabees also responded to natural disaster at home in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. More than 3,300 Seabees operating under 1NCD Forward responded quickly to repair more than 100 schools, remove 20,000 tons of debris, and clear 750 miles of roads.

As the national strategy focus changed, 1NCD lifted and shifted over 10,680 tons of equipment and 1,517 Seabees from Iraq to Afghanistan in 2009. Starting in January 2010, 1NCD supported the surge of 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan with one regiment and four battalions. With over 2,500 Seabees in Afghanistan, they completed more than 625 projects including new forward operating bases and combat outposts. In addition to wartime efforts, 1NCD Seabees remained heavily involved in projects to promote peace through Theater Security Cooperation Programs (TSCP) in various countries around the world. Small groups of Seabees built and repaired schools and medical clinics, drilled water wells, and completed various other construction projects to improve the quality of life for people in need.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, struck the coast of New York and New Jersey. 1NCD Seabees deployed to help remove debris, clear roads, and repair waterfront facilities.

Press Release, June 5, 2013; Image: US Navy