The Seabees have been the military construction arm of the U.S. Navy since 1942. The first Seabees were civilian construction workers who enlisted early in World War II to continue building for the Navy in the Pacific Theater and in Europe. Their accomplishments during the war are legendary. Nearly 200,000 men, master craftsmen, the most skillful of the nation’s skilled workers, are credited with paving the road to victory for the allies in the Pacific and in Europe. The work done by the Seabees was work only they could do. Using brains, brawn, blood and “Can Do”, they hacked at
jungle growth and blasted coral to build the victory road to Tokyo. It appears a certainty that the 10,000-mile accomplishment will always remain the Seabees’ greatest masterwork.
The Seabee story did not end with V-J Day. Mobile construction battalions continue to build and fight today. At one time there were nearly 25,000 sons of World War II Seabees in Vietnam building camps for America’s armed forces, repairing roads, bridges and airstrips, teaching the tricks of their trade to the Vietnamese and building orphanages, schools, hospitals and market places during off-duty hours.
Seabees were among the first to be withdrawn from Vietnam to be put to work at Navy and Marine Corps stations around the world, which had been neglected because of the higher priority of Vietnam. Seabee Civic Action Teams deploy to the Micronesian islands of the Trust Territories of the Pacific. Naval mobile construction battalions deploy all over the world. Individual Seabees serve with the State Department at embassies throughout the world and a host of specialized assignments as needed.
On August 17, 1990, 10 days after the commencement of Operation Desert Shield, the first Seabees arrived in Saudi Arabia. By October 18, 1990, the entire mobilization of Seabees was complete and encompassed 2,410 Seabees, 1,131 pieces of equipment, and 12,000 short tons of materials. Three full Reserve Seabee battalions and portions of two others were reactivated in support of the Persian Gulf War.
In the summer of 1992, Seabees were called on to provide recovery assistance to the hurricane devastated area of 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, Cuba. And, 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. Seabees participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. They served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and are still stationed in Southwest Asia in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
Seabees deployed to Pensacola, Florida in September of 2004 in response to Hurricane Ivan’s destruction to the Naval Air Station. The Seabees were greeted with cheers as they arrived with heavy equipment and chainsaws to clear away hurricane debris, repair roads, erect tents and help their fellow service members.
Seabees have resumed their peacetime strength of about 10,000 active duty and 12,300 reserve personnel. Today’s Seabees may be assigned to naval bases where they perform public works functions. Other Seabees are assigned to operational units, which deploy with the fleet. Active and reserve Seabee operational units include 20 Naval Mobile Construction Battalions, six deployable Regiments, two Seabee Readiness Groups, one Naval Construction Force Support Unit, two Construction Battalion Maintenance Units, two Underwater Construction Teams, and two Amphibious Construction Battalions.
On June 2, 1942, an Advanced Base Depot was established in Gulfport and the first Seabees started coming through Gulfport. In 1992, the Center celebrated its 50th Anniversary on the Gulf Coast where Gulf Coast residents and thousands of Seabees have sung the praises of the Gulfport Seabee Center loud and long and, today, the Seabees occupy a special place in the scheme of things throughout the mid-South.
The men and women of the Center have been honored for their distinguished community service and awarded the prestigious Laurel Wreath
Award for significant contributions to the local communities. The award traditionally honors individuals who contribute to quality of life along the Gulf Coast, but went collectively to Seabees for their hurricane relief, disaster assistance and community project support.
America’s long range defense plans in the early stages of World War II called for an uncongested deep water port to serve the Caribbean area. Gulfport offered this plus a moderate, semi-tropical year-round climate, which permitted training and out-loading winter and summer.
Land for the installation was acquired on a plot a mile northwest of the Port of Gulfport in April 1942, and an Advanced Base Depot was established two months later. An Armed Guard School and a Cooks and Bakers School were added in October 1942, followed by an Advanced Base Receiving Barracks in November, at which time some of the first Seabees were stationed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The mission of the Center changed from a receiving organization to a U.S. Naval Training Center in March 1944, and provided for training in basic engineering, diesel, radioman, quartermaster and electrician’s ratings.
Continuing realignments occurred creating a single command of the Naval Training Center and the Advanced Base Depot. The Depot became the U.S. Naval Storehouse in 1945 and the Training Center was decommissioned in 1946. In 1948, the station became custodian of certain national stockpile materials. Bauxite, tin, copper, sisal and abaca have been stored here in varying quantities since that time. Huge piles of bauxite, the imported ore from which aluminum is extracted are currently being shipped off base to be made into aluminum. It covers an estimated 24 of the Center’s 1,098 acres.
Old timers on the Coast report that there were times when some 25,000 Naval personnel were stationed at the Center. They lived in wooden
barracks, tents and quonset huts. Population
between the late 1940s and early 1960s dropped to four or five enlisted personnel and four or five commissioned officers. Civilian employees fluctuated with the amount of strategic supplies and construction equipment being received, stored and trans-shipped.
Some important organizational changes were made early in 1952 when the Naval Storehouse was disestablished and the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion Center was established.
The Navy’s mushrooming commitments for construction forces in Southeast Asia led the way to an increased mission for the Center in February 1966. Ten months later, the Center had expanded to include new functions such as Seabee Team Training and a new tenant, Construction Training Unit. The staff for the Naval Construction Battalion Center had expanded to 183 military and 523 civilian personnel to support approximately 4,200 Seabees. A personnel training facility, inactive for 20 years, was effectively forming, staging, training and homeporting first two, then five, seven and now four mobile construction battalions.
The impact on the community made by the Seabees and their associates has been astounding. The first group of 509 Seabees arrived unannounced from Davisville, Rhode Island, in March 1966. The galley, barracks and other personnel support facilities were still closed and locked. A base fireman, with a knack for cooking, was hastily recruited to prepare fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Other civilian employees opened the barracks, turned on gas and electricity, installed bunks and served as mess cooks.
The first few hours of cooperation between Seabees and the civilian community set the pattern for an association that has since grown into the mutual admiration society it is today. Gulf Coast residents refer to the Seabees as “Our Navy.” They use every opportunity to show their admiration for the fighter/builders. And, the Seabees respond in kind. From the beginning they have been good citizens, active in community affairs and taking the lead in many segments of community life.
Take Seabees and put them on a community assistance project, such as building a teen center, clearing a site for a city park, building a Girl Scout camp, improving a Little League baseball field, or building a Chamber of Commerce building, and training takes on new meaning. The Seabees are proud of their accomplishments and the community is grateful for the improvements they have made in the community.
Seabee assistance to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Camille captured the attention of news media all over the nation and earned the Naval Construction Battalion Center and supporting commands the Navy Unit Commendation for the part they played in recovery operations.
Seabees worked long and hard following Hurricane Katrina. Seabee volunteers have contributed more than 6,000 hours assisting in the local community since Hurricane Katrina, they and continue to be a good neighbor answering various requests for help from the local community on a daily basis.
Some of these projects have included: Seabees assisted in the Flint Creek Camp Ground cleanup. Personnel cleared a 25-site campground enabling the area to receive FEMA trailers.
Seabees pieced together and installed new playground equipment at a KaBoom Playground construction site in Bay St. Louis. Bees cleaned the site and participated in the formal dedication ceremony attended by First Lady Laura Bush and Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
Seabees joined the Coast-wide Great American Clean Up. Bees joined members of the local community in cleaning the beach. Seabees served as beautification force multipliers, safely and rapidly moving large piles of debris and clearing miles of the Katrina-littered beachfront. The Seabees’ efforts fell right in line with accomplishing the goal of making the community safe and healthy from remnants of Hurricane Katrina along the Southern Mississippi shoreline. Events such as the Great American Cleanup provide Seabees with an opportunity to train on construction equipment while serving local community volunteer efforts.
Seabees built six South East Asia Huts (SEAHUTS) for volunteers in Pearlington, to provide them with shelter while they help rebuild the town after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The Seabees were contacted for their CAN DO attitude and professionalism, to build quality shelters for the volunteers.
The Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) has been the recipient of numerous volunteer hours by Seabees and Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) students stationed on the Center. A team of students from NCTC assisted the AFRH staff to carefully take down, box and crate over 10,000 pieces of memorabilia ranging from plaques, photos, replicas of ships, historical articles and biographies, log books, and a wide variety of military historical information. This was a meaningful project for the students because of the significance of the memorabilia to our veterans. The recovered artifacts were transported to the Seabee Center where they will remain in a climate controlled warehouse until the AFRH reopens.
Camp Wilkes in Biloxi has been a beneficiary of Seabee volunteers and spirit. Seabees spent approximately 800 volunteer hours on completion of a 2,000 foot fire break along the Camp Wilkes perimeter fence. The fire break will assist with fire prevention at the 70-year old Boy Scout Camp. NCBC also donated mattresses to Camp Wilkes to replace bedding destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Seabees were recognized by the City of Gulfport at their Heroes of the Hurricane recognition ceremony in 2006 28. Capt. Van Dobson received a plaque on behalf of all Seabees stationed at the Seabee Center for the assistance provided to the City of Gulfport and the local community following Hurricane Katrina.
In the midst of the Gulf Coast recovery process, the Seabee Center is building more than $300 million worth in new facilities as a result of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Permanent repairs, which include the Military Construction Program Recapitalization Plan, are underway.
To assist in the recapitalization, the Officer in Charge of Construction (OICC) Katrina was established August 1, 2006 to support NCBC Gulfport, Keesler Air Force Base, New Orleans, and Stennis Space Center. OICC Katrina will serve as the facility engineering and acquisition authority for the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Projects for the Seabee Center include a NCTC Training Center Complex, Consolidated Professional Development Center Complex, Armory, Consolidated Security Complex, Training Hall, 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) Command and Control Facility, Bachelor Enlisted Quarters, Consolidated Public Works Facility, Housing Welcome Center, Pass Road/Broad Avenue Security Improvements, Operational
The Gulfport Seabee Center is one of the finest installations the Navy has. With military readiness as our primary concern, we are the Navy’s best homeport, mobilization base and logistics support center; the leader in efficient base operations; number one in innovative technology; and, the finest in sound business practices.
Published by Benchmark Publications, Inc., a private firm in no way connected with the Department of Defense or the Department of the Navy, under exclusive contract with Naval Construction Battalion Center, Gulfport, Mississippi. This base guide/telephone directory is a publication for
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