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The Seabee logo

The Seabees, or SeaBees, are the Construction Battalions (CBs) of the United States Navy. The Seabees have a history of building bases, bulldozing and paving thousands of miles of roadway and airstrips, and accomplishing myriad other construction projects in a wide variety of military theatres dating back to World War II.



The official motto of the Seabees is "Construimus, Batuimus"—translated into English as "We Build, We Fight." The Seabees have several unofficial mottos as well. Their best-known unofficial motto is the simple phrase "Can Do!", featured on much of their promotional material. 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.



World War II

WWII recruitment poster

In December 1941, with U.S. involvement in war soon expected on both 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 U.S. entrance 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.

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 the early days of the war 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.

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

With the general demobilization following the war, the Construction Battalions 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 (NACBs) and Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs).

Korean War

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 Incheon 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.


Beginning 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 the most 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

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.

Gulf War

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

During the 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 and Afghanistan Wars

Seabees continue to provide critical construction skills in connection with the effort to rebuild the infrastructure of both Iraq and Afghanistan. All Active and Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) and Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs) have been deployed to Iraq.

Southern Philippines Operation Enduring Freedom

Since 2003, 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. Seabees work along with Army, Marines, and Air Force operate under JSOTF-P.


In general

See also: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (all NMCBs)
See also: Naval Construction Battalion Center Port Hueneme
See also: Amphibious Construction Battalion One (ACB-1)
See also: Amphibious Construction Battalion Two (ACB-2) – Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek #Major shore commands (at "Naval Construction Force")

There are also three special Navy units that are primarily Seabee units. Mobile Utilities Support Equipment (MUSE) units deploy worldwide to provide power, water purification and technical support at a moment's notice for military and humanitarian missions. Naval Support Unit State Department is where Seabees work, rehab and maintain security areas at US Embassies and Consulates overseas and Presidential Support Duty, which is located at Camp David. While assigned to the State Department, a Seabee reports to a Department of State Security Engineering Officer or directly to a Department of State Regional Security Officer, who both work for the Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Along with the Marine Security Guard (MSG) program, this is a rare example of an active-duty uniformed member of the U.S. armed forces who is operationally controlled through a civilian, albeit law enforcement, head.

There are currently around 17,000 Seabees, active and reserve, serving in the United States Navy.

Unit Nomenclature

The nomenclature of Seabee units has changed over time. From WWII until 1949, the main Seabee units were designated as Naval Construction Battalions (NCB); from then until 1974, they were Mobile Construction Battalions (MCB); and from 1974 until the present they have been Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB). Individual units are distinguished by numbers before the letters (WWII era) or after them (all others).

Designations of other Seabee units have included Construction Battalion Unit (CBU), Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU), Underwater Construction Team (UCT), and Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB), all with numbers following the letters. Seabee units with numbers preceding the letters are or have been Naval Construction Regiments (NCR), Seabee Readiness Groups (SRG), and Naval Construction Divisions (NCD). [1]


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 M16 service rifle. 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 grenade launcher, the M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, or the M240 machine gun. Many reserve units still field variants of the M-60 machine gun. Unlike most navy personel, Seabees wear M81 woodland or 3 color desert pattern uniforms.

About one-third of new Seabees are assigned to Public Works Departments at Naval installations both within the U.S. 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.


There are seven source ratings for the Seabee community:[1]

  • Construction Mechanics (CM) maintain and repair the construction machinery used by the Seabees, such as power tools and heavy equipment.
  • Equipment Operators (EO) operate heavy construction equipment and coordinate rigging operations.
  • Utilitiesmen (UT) install, maintain, and operate a building's mechanical and fluid systems.
  • Construction Electricians (CE) install a building's electrical distribution and emergency power systems.
  • Builders (BU) are responsible for general construction, including carpentry, concrete, masonry, and finish work.
  • Steel Workers (SW) are responsible for erecting structural steel and reinforcing steel in concrete construction.
  • Engineering Aides (EA) are responsible for construction surveying, drafting, soils analysis, and project estimation.

At the Master Chief Petty Officer level, each of the ratings merges with at least one other rating.

  • Construction Mechanics and Equipment Operators merge into Master Chief Equipmentman (EQCM).
  • Construction Electricians and Utilitiesman merge into Master Chief Utilitiesman (UCCM).
  • Builders, Steel Workers, and Engineering Aides merge into Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM).


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 SCW pin. The qualifying units include: Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB), Amphibious Construction Battalions (ACB), Construction Battalion Maintenance Units (CBMU), Naval Construction Force Support Units (NCFSU), Underwater Construction Teams (UCT), and, since the end of 2008, Naval Construction Regiments (NCR).


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.

Frank J. Iafrate, a civilian plan file clerk at Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, was the originator and 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.[2]

During the war, Iafrate served as a Chief Carpenter's Mate in a Seabee Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit. After the war, he pursued a career in graphic design in Providence, Rhode Island. He died on March 30, 2000, after a two month battle with pancreatic cancer.

During World War II, artists working for Walt Disney created over a thousand military insignia, which were used as "nose art" for bombers and as unit logos. Disney artists designed logos for about ten Naval Construction units, including the 60th Naval (Canal) Construction Battalion[3] and the 133rd Naval Construction Battalion[4], in 1943.


  • Navy diver Robert Stethem was murdered by the radical Muslim terrorist organization known as Hezbollah when they hijacked TWA Flight 847 in 1985. Stethem was a Steel Worker Second Class (SW2), a Seabee diver and member of Underwater Construction Team ONE. The USS Stethem (DDG-63) is named in his honor. Fittingly, the vessel's nickname is "The Steel Worker." The sailors stationed aboard the ship commonly refer to themselves as "Steel Workers" also.
  • Seabees say "Hoorah!"[5] or "Oorah!"[6] as a war cry or spirited shout as an expression of motivation. "Hoorah" is also an enthusiastic reply or an acknowledgment to carry out an order, similar to "Aye, aye" in the fleet Navy. It is comparable to the U.S. Army's "Hooah" and the Navy SEAL's "Hooyah".


The Fighting Seabee Statue at Quonset Point
See also: Naval Construction Battalion Center Port Hueneme #Museum and U.S. Navy Museum # Other Navy museums

The U. S. Navy Seabee Museum is located at Naval Base Ventura County, in Port Hueneme, California.

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 at Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Mississippi.

In popular culture

See also


Further reading

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Phonetic rendering of the initials CB.




Seabee (plural Seabees)

Wikipedia has an article on:


  1. A construction battalion, part of the United States Navy responsible for building, bulldozing, etc.


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