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. This is part four of a five-part series, focusing on the Seabees’ activities in the Middle East during the Gulf War and the ongoing War on Terror. War throughout the 1900s took the United States military to central Europe, the islands of the Pacific, and Southeast Asia. But leading up to and immediately after the turn of the century, the U.S. found themselves in a new theater of war: the sandy deserts of the Middle East. The arid climate and unique culture of the region opened up new challenges for the United States. But when tasked with building the essential infrastructure for the Persian Gulf War and now the War on Terror, the Navy Seabees faced the challenge head-on. perimeter-web Seabees conduct a perimeter check around an outpost in Diwar, Afghanistan. Photo from the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum (Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael B. Watkins). GULF WAR In 1990, the Iraqi Army invaded and occupied the small costal country of Kuwait. Fueled by economic tensions following the Iran-Iraq War and Kuwait’s booming oil trade, Saddam Hussein attempted to annex the bordering nation. The United States led a coalition of nations to move in to the region to both liberate Kuwait as well as defend Saudi Arabia and its oil fields from further Iraqi aggression. Operation Desert Shield Operation Desert Shield was the first prong of the Gulf War. Allied forces from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Egypt and others took up defensive positions along the Saudi–Kuwait–Iraq border to discourage the Iraqi Army from advancing. Seabees were part of the U.S. coalition, tasked with building new facilities at Marine airfields, laying down munitions transfer roads and improving living conditions in bases. One of the major projects for the Seabees during Desert Shield was what became known as “Wally World” — a 15,000-man camp for the Second Marine Expeditionary Force. The base became the largest wartime Seabee project since Vietnam. Also of note was the Fleet Hospital Five in Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. The hospital was built and maintained by CB Units 411 and 415, both led by female officers — making history for the Seabees. Operation Desert Storm With the border secured, the allied forces turned on the offensive in early 1991 to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait. This second prong of the Gulf War was known as Operation Desert Storm. Much of the Seabees’ focus during the ground offensive was on supply roads, water pumping facilities and a prisoner of war camp. Arguably the most daunting assignment for the Seabees was a network of roads that spanned more than 200 miles across the desert. To deceive the enemy, the roads were built nearly at the last minute. Once built, 500 heavy haulers and thousands of other vehicles trekked across the six-lane road daily. With the help of the Seabees, the Marines and other allied troops extracted heavy losses on the Iraqis, who agreed to a conflict-ending ceasefire in February 1991. WAR ON TERROR After the Gulf War, most of the Seabees activities were humanitarian in nature. However, they were quickly thrust back into military mode following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. After hijacked planes were crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., American focus turned to the Middle East to find those responsible for the attacks and prevent future terrorism. The Seabees have been deployed in the Middle East since the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.  dirt-web Seabees fill in protective barriers with dirt. Strong perimeter defenses are key when protecting against the suicide bombing tactics of terrorism. Photo from the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Lavender). Much like in past wars, the Seabees have built roads, bases and other critical infrastructure in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. For example, the Seabees repaired runways at airbases in Camp Rhino and Kandahar, Afghanistan. One standout project during the War on Terror was a barracks built in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan (a Taliban stronghold region) by a team of eight female Seabees in 2012. It marked the first time in U.S. military history that an all-female team took on a construction project from start to finish. The barracks, complete with an operations center and a gym, was complete a week ahead of schedule.  allfemaleteam The first all-female construction team completed a barracks in Afghanistan in record time. Photo from the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. The Seabees have also played an important role in building a sustainable Middle East and bringing stability to the region. They’ve helped rebuild the war-torn cities and are teaching liberated Afghanis and Iraqis construction techniques which will allow them to forge a bright future for themselves. THE MISSION CONTINUES Since the United States first entered World War II, the Naval Construction Battalions have been there. Pairing their craft construction skills with combat ability, the Seabees have been a key to military victory for more than 76 years. As new conflicts arise, the Seabees adapt and step up to the challenge. No matter what missions the future throws at them, the Navy Seabees will answer the call with their famous motto: “Can Do!” Click here for the conclusion of our Seabees series to learn about the humanitarian and disaster relief efforts of the Seabees. 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.

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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.