Monday, March 16, 2009

Seabees Going Strong After 67 Years

The U.S. Naval Construction Force (NCF) shares a proud past with the island of Guam and the region through its contributions to mission readiness in the areas of construction and reconstruction of vital facilities and infrastructure. It was in 1941 when Rear Adm. Ben Moreell, chief of the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks, recommended establishing naval construction battalions to provide a force capable of defensive military operations as well as construction. The first units were recruited from the civilian construction trades and deployed to Pacific and Atlantic fronts in support of the nation's warfighting efforts in World War II. From building airstrips and roads to hospitals and homes, the Seabees were credited for constructing all of the essentials for forward-base facilities, and playing a significant role in the success of the World War II and other conflicts that followed. "World War II signalled the Seabee's entry into the Pacific theater," said Ensign Michael Warren, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 40. "Thousands of Seabees were instrumental in paving the way for warfighters." In 1944, during a three week battle for Guam, the Seabees participated by unloading ships and performing vital construction jobs directed at eventually turning the island into the advanced headquarters for the United States Pacific Fleet, an air base for Japan-bound B-29s, and a huge center of war supply, according to the official NCF Web site. The invasion of Tinian called for yet another exhibition of Seabee ingenuity. Because its narrow beaches were covered with low coral cliffs, Seabees devised and operated special movable ramps which made the landings possible. Once ashore, and even as the battle raged, their bulldozers accomplished feats of construction on the damaged and unfinished Japanese airfield.More than six decades later, the Seabees continue build on their proud heritage. Today there are 16,336 Seabees in the NCF providing central command support with multiple Seabee regiments and battalions providing contingency operations throughout Iraq, Afghanistan Kuwait, and Bahrain in direct support of Marine Expeditionary Force – Forward, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, and various special operations force efforts. Projects include construction of base camps and forward operating bases; road, airfield and bridge repairs; building renovations; and electrical and force protection upgrades. Task-organized units of various sizes provided force protection and mission support projects such as hardened dining facilities, Southwest Asia huts, and tension fabric structures at established camps and expeditionary forward operation bases (FOBs). Battalions also continued to run convoy security teams through the dangerous streets of Iraq, ensuring that supplies are safely and successfully transported to all camps and FOBs in Iraq. Convoy teams traveled more than 197,000 miles in 2008. Continued emphasis will be to construct camps and bases throughout Afghanistan and facilities for Iraqi Security Forces proved the value of Seabees operating in austere, dangerous environments. "With our motto "Construimus, Batuimus" or "We Build, We Fight" the Seabees have been alongside fellow Navy and Marine Corps units in every major conflict the U.S. has been involved in since World War II," said Warren. "Equipped with a "Can Do" attitude, our Seabees are accomplishing every construction task that is asked of us."

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