Seabee

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Seabees
USN-Seabees-Insignia.svg
The Seabee logo
Active 5 March 1942 – present
Country  United States of America
Branch  United States Navy
Role Militarized construction
Size 6,888 active personnel
6,927 Reserve personnel
13,815 total[1]
Motto Construimus, Batuimus
Latin: "We build. We fight" (also unofficially "Can Do!")

A Seabee is a member of the United States Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (CB). The word "Seabee" comes from initials "CB".[2] The Seabees have a history of building bases, bulldozing and paving thousands of miles of roadway and airstrips, and accomplishing a myriad of other construction projects in a wide variety of military theaters dating back to World War II.

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

In December 1941, with U.S. involvement in war soon expected on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks, recommended establishing Naval Construction Battalions at a newly constructed base at Davisville, Rhode Island (part of North Kingstown). With the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into the war, he was given the go-ahead. The Davisville Advanced Base Depot became operational in June 1942. Camp Thomas, a personnel-receiving station on the base, was established in October of that year. It eventually contained 500 Quonset huts for personnel. On August 11, 1942, the Naval Construction Training Center, known as Camp Endicott, was commissioned at Davisville. The Camp trained over 100,000 Seabees during the Second World War.

In California in May 1942, a base for supporting the Naval Construction Force was established at Port Hueneme in Ventura County. This base became responsible for shipping massive amounts of equipment and material to the efforts in the Pacific.

The earliest Seabees were recruited from the civilian construction trades and were placed under the leadership of the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps. Because of the emphasis on experience and skill rather than physical standards, the average age of Seabees during WWII was 37.

More than 325,000 men served with the Seabees in World War II, fighting and building on six continents and more than 300 islands. In the Pacific, where most of the construction work was needed, the Seabees landed soon after the Marines and built major airstrips, bridges, roads, gasoline storage tanks, and Quonset huts for warehouses, hospitals, and housing. They often operated under fire and frequently were forced to take part in the fighting to defend themselves and their construction projects. In the Pacific Theater they built 111 major airstrips and 441 piers, tanks for the storage of 100 m gallons of fuel, housing for 1.5 million men and hospitals for 70,000 patients.[3]

The Seabees were officially organized in the Naval Reserve on December 31, 1947.

With the general demobilization following the war, the Naval Construction Battalions (NCBs) were reduced to 3,300 men on active duty by 1950. Between 1949 and 1953, Naval Construction Battalions were organized into two types of units: Amphibious Construction Battalions (ACBs) and Mobile Construction Battalions (MCBs), which were later designated Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) in the early- to mid-1960s to eliminate confusion with Marine Corps Base (MCB) in Vietnam.

Korean War[edit]

The Korean War saw a call-up of more than 10,000 men. The expansion of the Seabees came from the Naval Reserve Seabee program where individuals volunteered for active duty. The Seabees landed at Inchon with the assault troops. They fought enormous tides as well as enemy fire and provided causeways within hours of the initial landings. Their action here and at other landings emphasized the role of the Seabees, and there was no Seabee demobilization when the truce was declared.

During the Korean War, the Navy realized they needed a naval air station in this region. Cubi Point in the Philippines was selected, and civilian contractors were initially selected for the project. After seeing the forbidding Zambales Mountains and the maze of jungle, they claimed it could not be done.

The Navy then turned to the Seabees. The first Seabees to arrive were MCB-3 on October 2, 1951; followed by MCB-5 on November 5, 1951. Over the next five years, MCB-2, -7, -9, -11 and -13 were also deployed to Cubi Point.

Seabees cut a mountain in half to make way for a nearly two-mile-long runway. Cubi Point turned out to be one of the largest earth-moving projects in the world, equivalent to the construction of the Panama Canal. The $100 million facility was commissioned on July 25, 1956, and comprised an air station and an adjacent pier that was capable of docking the Navy's largest carriers.

Following Korea, the Seabees embarked on a new mission. From providing much needed assistance in the wake of a devastating earthquake in Greece in 1953 to providing construction work and training to underdeveloped countries, the Seabees became "The Navy's Goodwill Ambassadors". Seabees built or improved many roads, orphanages and public utilities in many remote parts of the world.

Antarctica[edit]

In 1955, Seabees began deploying yearly to the continent of Antarctica. As participants in Operation Deep Freeze, their mission was to build and expand scientific bases located on the frozen continent. The first "wintering over" party included 200 Seabees who distinguished themselves by constructing a 6,000-foot ice runway on McMurdo Sound. Despite a blizzard that once destroyed the entire project, the airstrip was completed in time for the advance party of Deep Freeze II to become the first to arrive at the South Pole by plane.

Over the following years and under adverse conditions, Seabees added to their list of accomplishments such things as snow-compacted roads, underground storage, laboratories, and living areas. One of the most notable achievements took place in 1962, when the Navy's builders constructed Antarctica's first nuclear power plant, at McMurdo Station.

During the Cold War, the Seabees undertook a number of other missions, including constructing the Distant Early Warning Line in the Arctic. Again operating often under extreme conditions, the Seabees successfully completed every mission assigned to them.

Vietnam War[edit]

Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One (NMCB-1), 2006

Seabees were deployed to Vietnam throughout the conflict beginning in small numbers in June 1954 and extending to November 1972. By 1962, they began building camps for Special Forces. In June 1965, Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields, part of Seabee Team 1104, was actively engaged at the Battle of Dong Xoai and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions there. Shields remains the only Seabee ever to be awarded the Medal of Honor. These "Civic Action Teams" continued into the Vietnam War where Seabees, often fending off enemy forces alongside their Marine and Army counterparts, also built schools and infrastructure and provided health care service. Beginning in 1965, full Seabee battalions (MCBs) and Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs), along with other unit types, were deployed throughout Vietnam. Seabees from the Naval Reserve provided individual personnel early on to augment regular units and two battalions, MCB 12 and MCB 22.

In Vietnam, the Seabees supported the Marines and built a staggering number of aircraft-support facilities, roads, and bridges; they also paved roads that provided access to farms and markets, supplied fresh water to countless numbers of Vietnamese through hundreds of Seabee-dug wells, provided medical treatment to thousands of villagers, and built schools, hospitals, utilities systems, roads and other community facilities. Seabees also worked with and taught construction skills to the Vietnamese people.

After Vietnam, the Seabees built and repaired Navy bases in Puerto Rico, Japan, Guam, Greece, Sicily, and Spain. Their civic action projects focused on the Trust Territories of the Pacific.

In 1971, the Seabees began their largest peacetime construction on Diego Garcia, a small atoll in the Indian Ocean. This project took 11 years and cost $200 million. The complex accommodates the Navy's largest ships and the biggest military cargo jets. This base proved invaluable when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm were launched.

From the Cold War to terrorism[edit]

A U.S. Navy Seabee mans a vehicle-mounted machine gun while travelling through Al Hillah, Iraq in May 2003.

As the Cold War cooled off, new challenges were presented by the increased incidence of terrorism. Also there were ongoing support missions to Diego Garcia, Guam, Okinawa, Navy and Marine Bases in Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guantanamo Bay, Guatemala, the Naval Support Facility for Polaris and Poseidon Submarines in Holy Loch Scotland, Rota Spain, Naples Italy and Suda Bay Crete.

Seabee construction efforts led to the expansion and improvement of Naval Air Facility, Sigonella Sicily, turning this into a major base for the Navy’s Sixth Fleet aviation activities.

There were combat roles as well. In 1983, a truck bomb demolished the barracks the Marines had secured in Beirut, Lebanon. After moving to the Beirut International Airport and setting up quarters there, Druse militia artillery began harassing the Marines. After consultations with the theater commander and Marine amphibious command and combat engineers, the forward deployed battalion, NMCB-1 in Rota Spain sent in a 70 man AirDet working party with heavy equipment. Construction of artillery resistant quarters went on from December 1983 until the Marines’ withdrawal in February 1984. Only one casualty occurred when an Equipment Operator using a bulldozer to clear fields of fire was wounded by an RPG attack. The Seabee, EO2 Kirt May was awarded the first Purple Heart awarded a Seabee since Vietnam. The Seabees were proud that the Marines had greatly improved protection from ongoing artillery harassment.

Persian Gulf War[edit]

A Seabee maintains security by manning an M60 machine gun while his convoy drives through Al Hillah in Iraq.

During the Persian Gulf War, more than 5,000 Seabees (4,000 active and 1,000 reservists) served in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, Seabees built 10 camps for more than 42,000 personnel; 14 galleys capable of feeding 75,000 people; and 6 million ft² (600,000 m²) of aircraft parking apron and runways as well as 200+ Helo landing zones. They built and maintained two 500-bed Fleet Hospitals near the port city of Al-Jubayl.

Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan[edit]

Seabees continue to provide critical construction skills in connection with the effort to rebuild the infrastructure of Afghanistan. All active and reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) and Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs) have been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Seabees have been deployed since the beginning of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. One of their most high profiles tasks in Iraq has been the removal of statues of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. In Afghanistan, the Seabees' main task has been the construction of multiple Forward Operating Bases for U.S. and coalition forces.

Operation Enduring Freedom Southern Philippines[edit]

Since 2002, Seabees have provided critical and tactical construction skills in an effort to win the hearts and minds of locals. Their efforts have begun to deter the rising influence of radical terrorists in the southern Philippines, most notably the Abu Sayyaf's jungle training area. Seabees work along with Army, Marines, and Air Force under Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.

Disaster relief and recovery[edit]

In 1969 when Hurricane Camile hit the gulf coast, the MCB-121 battalion stationed at Gulfport were called upon for cleanup, rescue, and community outreach for months to come. They fed displaced families and supported the community.

Seabees set up tents to house displaced victims of a devastating flood that hit Ethiopia.

Seabees supported disaster recovery efforts for victims of the Northridge earthquake of 1994.

In summer 1992, Seabees were called on to provide recovery assistance for Homestead, Florida following Hurricane Andrew. Seabees were also vital to the humanitarian efforts in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope in 1992-1993. In 1994, they were again called on to provide assistance to the Haitian Relief effort at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. On Christmas Day 1995, Seabees arrived in Croatia to support the Army by building camps as part of Operation Joint Endeavor, the peacekeeping effort in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. NMCB 40 played a pivotal role serving with the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division "The Big Red One", in assisting with the dismantling of FOB's during the IFOR/SFOR phase.

On September 23, 1998, Hurricane Georges plowed through the Caribbean Islands causing millions of dollars in damage and generating thousands of DRT (disaster recovery team) man hours for the Seabees. The Navy provided generators and water trucks that were taken to nearby cities and damage assessment teams were sent to the local islands.

Shortly after Hurricane Georges ravaged Puerto Rico and most of the Caribbean, the Seabees immediately turned their focus towards Hurricane Mitch, which was the most powerful hurricane of the 1998 season. Mitch left more than 17,000 people dead due to the high winds and heavy rains, which led to mud slides that buried thousands in Central America. The Seabees deployed to Honduras participating in operations with Joint Task Force Bravo, providing capabilities to conduct engineer reconnaissance, repair roads and bridges, clear debris, remove bridges, and build base camps. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 was the first Navy element to arrive in Central America taking part in their second humanitarian mission on the deployment.

Seabees deployed in September 2004 in response to Hurricane Ivan’s destruction to the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. The Seabees cleared hurricane debris, repaired roads, erected tents, and otherwise assisted fellow service members.

The Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Mississippi, suffered damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Seabees were tasked to rebuild the base and the Gulf Coast.

Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Seven deployed to provide construction support and disaster relief to Haiti following the earthquake in 2010. Seabee divers from Underwater Construction Team One along with ACB-2 and the Army Engineer divers made repairs to the heavily damaged port facilities in Port-au-Prince. This resulted in the re-opening of the port to allow humanitarian supplies into the country.

Seabees from NMCB-133 and Underwater Construction Team Two deployed to Japan as part of the relief effort after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Eleven Air Detachment deployed for roughly two weeks to support federal, state, and local authorities in disaster recovery operations in the New Jersey and New York areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Air Detachment mounted out 90 personnel and 94 pieces of civil engineering support equipment including front-end loaders, backhoes, pumps, generators, storage containers, and other equipment which was convoyed to the disaster area.[4]

Organization[edit]

Unit nomenclature[edit]

Battalion[edit]

The battalion is the fundamental unit of the Naval Construction Force (NCF). Seabee battalions are constituted in such a way as to be self-sustaining in the field. The nomenclature for NCF battalions has evolved over the years.

From the early 1960s through 1991, reserve battalions were referred to as Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (RNMCB). After 1991, all reserve battalions were renamed to NMCB, signifying the integration of the reserve units with the active units of the NCF.

Regiment[edit]

During the rapid build-up of the Seabees during World War II, the number of battalions in a given area increased and larger construction programs were undertaken. This necessitated a higher command echelon to plan, coordinate, and assign the work of several battalions in one area. As a result, Naval Construction Regiments (NCR) were established in December 1942.[5]

Brigade[edit]

In April 1943, Naval Construction Brigades (NCB) were organized to coordinate the work of regiments.[5] Brigades were the highest NCF command echelon until early in the 21st Century. At that time, the last two brigades were the SECOND Naval Construction Brigade (2nd NCB) and the THIRD Naval Construction Brigade (3rd NCB). The 2nd NCB commanded Atlantic Fleet Seabee units and the 3rd NCB commanded Pacific Fleet Seabee units. Both brigades were decommissioned in August 2002 and are no longer part of the NCF structure.

Division[edit]

Shortly after the commencement of the Global War on Terror, it was realized that a single command interface for global Seabee operations would be required. On August 9, 2002, the FIRST Naval Construction Division (1 NCD) was stood-up and commissioned at NAB Little Creek in Virginia. Since January 2006, 1NCD has been a subordinate unit of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). First Naval Construction Division (1NCD) was decommissioned May 31, 2013. The 1NCD staff will be integrated into NECC. Some 1NCD functions have been transferred to the newly created Naval Construction Groups (NCGs) in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Port Hueneme, California, which are now the East and West Coast continuity for the NCF.[6]

Specialty Units[edit]

Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU)[edit]

When first organized during WWII, these units consisted of approximately one-fourth the personnel of an NCB and were intended to take over the maintenance of bases on which major construction had been completed. Today, CBMU's provide public works support at Naval Support Activities, Forward Operating Bases, and Fleet Hospital/Expeditionary Medical Facilities during wartime or contingency operations. They also provide disaster recovery support to Naval Regional Commanders in CONUS.

Underwater Construction Team (UCT)[edit]

UCT's deploy worldwide to conduct underwater construction, inspection, repair, and demolition operations of ocean facilities, to include repair of battle damage. They maintain a capability to support a Fleet Marine Force amphibious assault, subsequent combat service support ashore, and self-defense for their camp and facilities under construction.

Naval Construction Groups (formerly Seabee Readiness Groups [SRG])[edit]

In 2013, the SRG's were decommissioned, and re-formed into Naval Construction Groups ONE and TWO. They are regimental-level command groups tasked with administrative and tactical control of Seabee Battalions, as well as conducting pre-deployment training of NCF units in the NCG's respective homeport locations. Currently, Naval Construction Group TWO (NCG-2) is based at CBC Gulfport, and Naval Construction Group ONE (NCG-ONE) is based at CBC Port Hueneme.

Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB)[edit]

ACB's (also abbreviated as PHIBCB) evolved out of pontoon assembly battalions formed as part of the Seabees during World War II. After the war, these battalions (originally MCBs 104 and 105) were renamed ACB's and assigned to Naval Beach Groups.

Today, while the ACBs are part of the NCF, they do not report to 1 NCD, instead reporting to surface TYCOMs. Additionally, the ACBs have a different personnel mix than an NMCB with half the enlisted personnel being traditional Seabee rates and the other half being fleet rates. See Amphibious Construction Battalion One, Amphibious Construction Battalion Two for more detail.

Obsolete units[edit]

NCF unit types that are no longer in use include:

  • Naval Construction Force Support Unit (NCFSU)
  • Construction Battalion Unit (CBU)
  • Construction Detachments (CBD)
  • Pontoon Assembly Detachments (PAD)
  • Seabee Readiness Groups

Training[edit]

Seabees learning to use the M240

The newcomers begin "A" School (preliminary training) fresh out of boot camp, or they come from the fleet after their service term is met, spending about 75% of the twelve weeks immersed in hands-on training. The remaining 25% is spent in classroom instruction. From "A" School, new Seabees most often report to an NMCB command for their first tour of duty. For training, the new Seabees attend a four-week course known as Expeditionary Combat Skills (ECS) at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Port Hueneme, California. ECS is also being taught to all personnel who report to a unit in the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command. ECS is a basic combat-skills course where the students spend time in a classroom environment learning map reading and land navigation, battlefield first aid, how to lay out defensive plans, how to conduct patrols, vehicle egress, and many other combat-related skills. Half of each course is spent at a rifle range where students learn basic rifle marksmanship and then qualify with the M16A2 and M16A3 service rifles. ECS students also learn fundamentals of the M9 service pistol and qualify. At the end of training, new Seabees are ready to perform with their new battalion. During their tenure with an NMCB, personnel may be assigned to a crew-served weapon, such as the MK 19 40 mm machine gun, the M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, or the M240 machine gun. Many reserve units still field variants of the M60 machine gun. Until 2012, Seabees wore the Woodland camouflage uniform or the legacy tri-color Desert Camouflage Uniform, the last members of the entire U.S. military to do so, but are now transitioning to the NWU Type III. Seabees use ALICE field gear as well as some units working with Marines use USMC issue ILBE gear.[citation needed]

Seabees and Marines work together during a joint training exercise.

About one-third of new Seabees are assigned to Public Works Departments (PWD) at naval installations both within the United States and overseas. While stationed at a Public Works Department, a Seabee has the opportunity to get specialized training and extensive experience in one or more facets of their rating.

Ratings[edit]

There are seven source ratings for the Seabee community:[7]

Badge[edit]

SCW insignia for officers and enlisted

The military qualification badge for the Seabees is known as the Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist insignia (SCW). It is issued to both officers and enlisted personnel and recognizes those who have been fully trained and qualified as a member of the various Naval Construction Force (NCF) units. Only members attached to a qualifying NCF unit are eligible for the SCWs pin. The qualifying units include: Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB), Amphibious Construction Battalions (ACB), Naval Construction Force Support Units (NCFSU), Underwater Construction Teams (UCT), and, since the end of 2008, Naval Construction Regiments (NCR).

The SCWs insignia has been in existence since it was officially approved for use in 1993.

Ranks[edit]

The ranks of E-1 through E-3 in the Navy include Seaman (white stripes), Airman (green stripes), and Fireman (red stripes). E-1 through E-3 Seabees use the designation Constructionman and wear sky-blue stripes on their dress and service uniforms.

[edit]

Frank J. Iafrate, a civilian plan file clerk at Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island, was the artist who designed the original Seabee logo ("Fighting 'Bee") in early 1942. The logo has remained in use, unchanged. In late 1942, after designing the logo, he enlisted in the Seabees.[8]

During World War II, artists working for Walt Disney designed logos for about ten Naval Construction units, including the 60th Naval (Canal) Construction Battalion[9] and the 133rd Naval Construction Battalion, in 1943.[10]

Music[edit]

The "Song of the Seabees" was written in 1943. The lyrics were composed by Sam M. Lewis, and the musical composition was written by Peter DeRose. The first verse of the song, however, is usually the only verse to be sung or played at official functions.

Miscellany[edit]

Museums[edit]

The Fighting Seabee Statue at Quonset Point
Fighting Seabee Statue at Naval Construction Battalion Center designed by Seabee Architect LJ Atkison in 1965. Originally designed for a Mardi Gras parade, it was retired to a statue in 1966. Gulfport, MS
See also: Naval Base Ventura County#U.S. Navy Seabee Museum and U.S. Navy Museum#Other Navy museums

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum is located at Naval Base Ventura County, California. The new museum—built by Carlsbad-based RQ Construction— opened on July 22, 2011, located outside the base itself, near the entrance to the Naval Construction Battalion Center Port Hueneme, California. Due to the location, visitors are able to visit the museum without having to enter the base itself.

The design of the single-story, 38,833 square foot structure was inspired by the Seabee Quonset Hut. Inside are galleries for exhibition space, a grand hall, a theater for 45 people, collections storage, and research areas.

On February 7, 2011, the museum was certified as LEED Silver for utilizing a number of sustainable design and construction strategies. Features include the use of low-maintenance landscaping; a “cool” roofing system with high solar reflectance and thermal emittance; use of photocell controlled light fixtures and energy-efficient lighting fixtures; 30% use of regional materials and 80% construction debris was recycled and diverted from landfills; low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs); and, use of dual-flush toilets and low-flow aerator faucets.

The Seabee Museum and Memorial Park, in Davisville, Rhode Island, was opened in the late 1990s by a group of former Seabees. The Fighting Seabee Statue is located here.

The Seabee Heritage Center is located in Building 446 at the Naval Construction Battalion Center (Gulfport, Mississippi). The Heritage Center is the Atlantic Coast Annex of the Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme.[11] Opened in 1995, the Museum Annex commemorates the history and achievements of the Atlantic Coast Naval Construction Force (Seabees) and the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps.[12] Exhibits at the Gulfport Annex are provided by the Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Huie, William Bradford (1997). Can Do!: The Story of the Seabees (Bluejacket Books Series). Naval Institute Press.
  • RADM Charles R. Kubic & James P. Rife (2009). Bridges to Baghdad: The US Navy Seabees in the Iraq War.
  • Nichols, Gina (2007). The Seabees at Gulfport. Arcadia Publishing.

External links[edit]