The five-day FTX, conducted across Naval Base Ventura County’s field training sites, challenges future CEC officers to operate as a team while completing scenario-driven missions. This FTX training method is integral to preparing students for future operational assignments in the Navy, allowing students to utilize the lessons and skills learned in the classroom.
“CECOS FTX is where our newest officers gain a basic understanding of how command and control is exercised in the field and where they refine their ability to assess a situation, evaluate risk and think independently,” said the Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering (CSFE) and CECOS executive officer Cmdr. Amy Honek, a 2004 CECOS basic class graduate.
CECOS FTX tasks touch on the basics of military tactics and incorporate relevant scenarios applicable to the expeditionary forces today and in the future. As a result, the students graduate from the basic course ready for more advanced training in their future operational assignments.
The diversity of students in each class enhances the training experience.
“These officers have a unique opportunity to operate among such a diverse group,” said Honek. “Among them are 32 active duty officers, ten reserve officers, and one officer from the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy Seabees.”
Some students bring prior experience from the fleet and across multiple commissioning sources. All bring a blend of [university] degrees and leadership experience.
“All of this can be maximized and leveraged uniquely in a field environment and it is great to see how they form together in their squads this way,” said Honek.
Upon arrival at their FTX campsite, students are tasked to construct a tent city within a five-hour limit. CECOS Basic Class 273 completed the task in just over four hours.
During the FTX, students are divided into four squads with an assigned commissioned officer, chief petty officer, and Marine adviser. Each squad is assigned missions to plan and conduct security patrols, command post exercises, and engineering reconnaissance (recon).
For example, one training mission performed by the students was the recon of a potential helicopter landing zone. Students were tasked to plan the mission, develop a patrol order and conduct reconnaissance.
The realistic security patrols provided unique challenges combining squad tactics, operational procedures, radio communications and engineering problem-solving.
The CECOS students were also tasked to develop an engineering solution plan and present it to instructors for mission approval.
Ensign Melina Duong, a student assigned to squad two, gained a newfound respect for CEC officers and the Seabee community.
“This was a new experience for me,” said Duong. “Being able to watch us grow together as a team, and the challenges we were able to overcome, was very impressive and rewarding.”
When asked for her plans following FTX, Duong stated she wanted to take about five showers and then decide whether to eat or sleep.
CECOS students receive classroom and laboratory instruction before and after the FTX, covering construction methods, contingency planning and operations, engineering reconnaissance and land navigation. The total length of their training in Port Hueneme is 15 weeks and is typically followed by expeditionary combat skills training in Gulfport, Mississippi.
It takes an all-hands effort across the command to execute each CECOS Basic Class iteration successfully. The FTX evolution requires more participants to support its execution.
“The CECOS FTX relies heavily on support from personnel external to the unit in order for us to surge for this phase of officer instruction,” said Honek. “We were successful this year due to the Marine Corps advisors from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) and the Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3.”
CECOS provides Seabees, civil engineer corps officers, facility engineers and environmental professionals with the necessary skills, knowledge and education to enhance lifelong learning and to provide quality support to the fleet.
Basic Class 273 is scheduled to graduate from the 15-week course October 28.