KODIAK, Alaska - A major new expansion is getting under way for the Naval Special Warfare Center on Spruce Cape.
Alutiiq Diversified Services, the construction division of the Afognak Native Corporation, has been awarded a $17.4 million contract to renovate the facility and build a 25,000 square-foot expansion.
Alutiiq defeated six competitors in the bidding for the contract, which will modernize the Navy SEALs training complex that opened in 1987.
"Come spring, we'll break ground on the new building," said Gerad Godfrey, a spokesman for Afognak Native Corp.
Work on the complex is expected to be complete by April 15, 2015 and will include berthing, instructional facilities and maintenance spaces for the center's small boats. The new facility is expected to replace temporary structures in place on Spruce Cape.
Lt. Comdr. David McKinney, Naval Special Warfare public affairs spokesman, told the Kodiak Daily Mirror (http://bit.ly/RIvmo F) that training in Alaska is essential for the operators' readiness to deploy anywhere in the world.
"The training there is invaluable," he said. "To do it right, NSW needs appropriate facilities that house, feed and support our staff and students. The existing pre-engineered facilities at Kodiak are unable to adequately support current training requirements. The new facility and infrastructure provides the indoor training space needed to support instruction as well as life support needs such as berthing and dining facilities. The need for Navy Special Operators is not going to decrease and Kodiak is one of the essential training locations for our Force."
In project documents, the Navy stated that SEAL qualification training classes have grown since the complex's last renovation, and existing facilities are no longer adequate. Modular and temporary buildings currently used are more expensive to maintain and operate than permanent structures.
"We will be building them their new facility first, and they will be moving into that facility, then we will be going in and renovating their existing facility," Godfrey said.
About 30-40 people will be employed on the job, he added, with some moving back and forth between the project and the new Afognak Native Corp. headquarters under construction on Near Island.
Since Sept. 11, Kodiak instruction has become a more important part of SEAL training. In a 2007 interview, Lt. Steve Schultz, officer in charge of Detachment Kodiak, said Afghanistan deployments changed the way SEALs looked at cold-weather training.
"After 9/11 and the fighting that took place in the Afghanistan mountains, the SEALs decided we needed to come up with a more structured cold weather course," he said at the time. "We weren't prepared to fight in that environment."
In 2002, the U.S. Special Operations Command released new standards that required SEAL candidates to undergo a 28-day wilderness training exercise before graduation. Kodiak, as the SEALS' only cold-weather marine training ground, took greater importance.
In 2009, the 28-day course was described in Navy documents as including cold-weather survival courses, winter navigation and adaptation to cold weather.
Classes have overnighted in snow caves on Pyramid Mountain, broken the ice on the Buskin River to swim and navigated small boats in the Long Island area.
"We teach them how to survive in the cold weather starting with the basics setting up tents and starting their stoves," said an unnamed instructor in 2009. "Most of these guys have never spent a night out in the cold before, and we have to show them how to utilize their gear."
The project first reached public attention in July 2011, when the U.S. Senate passed an appropriations bill containing funding for it. Delays in reconciling the bill with a House version mean the project will be finished about six months later than originally scheduled.