by Jeffrey Pierce, U.S. Navy Public Affairs

Seabees from Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2 and NCG 1 participated in a two-week course on the Cold-formed Steel Mobile Factory (CFSMF) at the Contingency Construction Crew Training (CCCT) facility on board Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, MS.

The CFSMF is an emerging concept gaining traction within the Naval Construction Force (NCF) that replaces traditional lumber with prefabricated steel studs and cladding for building construction.  Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 went through a similar two-week training course in September 2020 on board Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California.

The origins of the cold-formed steel framing technique within the NCF can be traced back to

NMCB 1’s deployment to Okinawa, Japan to include the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Cruise.  During this deployment, Seabees had the opportunity to use an earlier version of stud machine used today.  Although successful, more needed to be done.

Since 2014, the requirements expanded to include an additional cladding machine to fabricate the sheets for siding and roofing and well as the containerization needs for the entire CFSMF.   

The most recent training course held at CCCT took 14 Seabees from NCG 2 and NCG 1 through a classroom curriculum and a practical application phase where students used the machines to fabricate the materials in order to build a small ‘doll house’ as they would have done during their “A” school curriculum using traditional lumber.

Representatives from the equipment’s manufacturer, New Tech Machinery, were on hand to guide the students on the set up, operation and maintenance of the CFSMF.

Although the training held in Port Hueneme was essentially the same as the training in Gulfport, most of the students going through the most recent class were instructors.

According to John DeBerard from New Tech Machinery, the training in Gulfport exceed expectations due to the experience level of the students in the course.

As with any new technology, the curriculum needs to be refined and standardized so it can be fully implemented.  According to Senior Chief Justin Richards from NCG 1, this is part of the reason for the most recent training.

“When Naval Facilities Engineering Command purchases new or modernized equipment, there are potential training gaps,” Richards said. “Our purpose is to begin to fill those gaps.”

Someone who is not familiar with the construction processes may ask what advantages cold-formed steel has over the traditional framing methods the Seabees have used for more than 75 years.

Richards explains some of the advantages.

“I believe that the Navy’s priorities are for the NCF to be able to build structures anywhere in the world and quickly,” Richards said.

“Using steel versus dimensional lumber to frame helps overcome the lack of material availability, high cost, or a wide logistics footprint for the latter. Plywood and other materials for framing take up a lot of space when embarked, and the elements can easily damage the wood.”

One of the students who went the through the training, NCG 2’s BU1 Jonathan Wagner, sees other advantages to CFSMF.

“I believe with the right application these machines can immensely improve our capabilities across the world,” Wagner said. “There are advantages for this type of application vs traditional framing methods. The metal structures have a longer life expectancy as well as being significantly more durable.”

There are plans for additional training sessions in the future.  According to DeBerard, without regular use of the cladding and stud machines by both students and instructors, it will be difficult to retain the knowledge gained during their initial course of instruction.