Seabees pool project swimming along

11 Jun 2003 | Army Pfc. Samuel A. Soza

An innovative conversion of a large fish feeder into a swimming pool has made this one of the cooler base camps, while boosting troop morale at the same time.

Lance Cpl. Johnny Burns of the First Marine Expeditionary Force is one of the many individuals that took advantage of the new pool June 11 to catch a break from the heat of the day.

"It was refreshing!" he said.

The Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 15 (Air Detachment), based out of Kansas City, Mo., spent two weeks setting up systems to circulate and filter the water.

The Seabees opted to convert a recessed fish feeder into a pool because of its large diameter.

"The pool used to be a coy feeder," said Marine Sgt. Christopher Gowin, one of the three lifeguards on duty. The coy is an exotic fish that Saddam Hussein had bred before the war.

Engineers originally had intended to fill the feeder with water from one of the water trucks. The problem would have been keeping the water clean because the site initially did not have any filtration system, said Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Kline, a construction mechanic with NMCB 15.

"We're trying to create a three-part filter system," Kline said, pointing at some of the filter system's workings. "Those black cylinders are from Saddam's personal pool."

The Seabees opted not use Hussein's pool, which is larger than the feeder site, at his personal palace in Babylon, said Kline, because of the damage caused by looters at the palace before the Marines arrived.  Right now it does not have any electricity or water so they would have to truck the water to the pool.

Kline, along with Petty Officer 2nd Class Martin Byfield, a utilities man, keep the six-foot pool in working order with daily checks on the pump and filter system. They also add chlorine and clean the water.

NMCB 15's other works include building the showers and laundry facility here on the camp. Outside the perimeter, they have rehabilitated many public schools and other municipal buildings.

The refurbished pool appears to have made a great splash with troops since nearly 100 Marines and soldiers visit daily to escape the sweltering heat.

"It's helped with the morale of the Marines who have been out here for seven to eight months," said Marine Sgt. Shawn Wallace of the B Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. Wallace is from Crystal River, Fl.

"It's helped a lot of Marines," agrees Cpl. Antonio Zolud, also from B Battery and a native of Van Nuys, Calif.

Troops that are coming back from the stressful front lines realize the need for distractions such as the pool. And with the hotter climate of summer arriving, the pool may become more necessity than recreation.

"This is something we could do back home that we couldn't do here," said Lance Cpl. Phillip Cuppermell of the Combat Service Support Co. 151.

"We have a pool in Iraq," said Cuppermell, a native of Rochester, N.Y. "The Seabees did a hell of a job."