Leading up to Veterans Day, NCCER highlights the Navy Seabees, who combine the combat effectiveness of the military with the craft skills of the construction industry. Stories of war commonly focus on the brave infantry who storm the beaches and push across the battleground, dodging enemy fire while diving into the next foxhole. Movies and TV shows also love to highlight the espionage and secretive intelligence work that goes into gaining the upper hand in a high-stakes conflict. But what you don’t always hear about is who comes in after and even alongside the first wave of soldiers. The ones who help win the battle and immediately go back to work building the infrastructure needed to win the next fight. Bridges and roads. Advanced bases and barracks. Airfields and runways. In the middle of a warzone, completing these crucial projects in a safe and timely manner could mean the difference between victory and defeat. And when you need something built, you send in the Seabees. What are the Seabees? The Navy Seabees are an elite group of enlisted personnel trained in both combat and the craft skills of the construction industry. The Seabees use their construction skills and experience to build necessary infrastructure to support military operations. But should their worksite come under attack, they can throw down their tools and take up arms at a moment’s notice to defend themselves and the project. The term “Seabees” comes from the group’s full name: United States Naval Construction Battalions. Construction Battalion shortens to “C.B.,” pronounced “Seabee.” The iconic “Fighting Bee” insignia of the Seabees was designed by Frank Iafrate in 1942, before the Seabees name had become official. Iafrate originally thought to use the building-focused beaver as the battalion mascot but discovered that beavers run away when threatened. “Then I thought of a bee — the busy worker, who doesn’t bother you unless you bother him. But provoked, the bee stings,” Iafrate recalled1200px-USN-Seabees-Insignia.svg
The Seabees insignia was designed by Frank Iafrate in 1942.

Formation and Early Days
Before the Seabees were formed, the U.S. had to use civilian contractors for construction projects such as bases. But when the U.S. officially entered World War II, the use of those civilian contractors had to stop. Why? By international law, civilians are not permitted to take up arms and resist an enemy. If they do, they are considered guerrillas and can be executed. The U.S. needed a military alternative which allowed personnel to legally both build and fight. Rear Admiral Ben Moreell was given the authority to establish a new specialized organization to fill this purpose, and on January 5, 1942 the Naval Construction Battalions were formed in Davisville, Rhode Island. The first unit deployed to Bora Bora less than two weeks later. CBEnlistPoster
The Navy called for craft professionals to enlist as part of a new elite construction group known as “Seabees.”
In March of that same year, the Navy Department officially named the group the Seabees. They took up the motto Construmus Batumius — “We Build, We Fight.” More than 60 different crafts were represented in the battalions. Electricians, welders, carpenters and plumbers were just a few of the many craft professionals who made up the Seabees during World War II. Click here to read part two of our Seabees series to learn about some of the projects and missions the Seabees undertook during WWII. EARN NCCER INDUSTRY-RECOGNIZED CREDENTIALS Like the Seabees, many military veterans have acquired craft skills during their service. These skills and experiences are a great asset when looking for a career after being discharged. By applying your skills and earning NCCER credentials, you can show potential employers what you know. Click here to learn more about NCCER’s Hard Hat Heroes program.

Leave a comment

About NCCER

NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.