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 five of a five-part series, focusing on the Seabees’ disaster relief and humanitarian efforts. Although part of the United States military, the unique talents of the Seabees make them just as valuable in times of peace as in times of war. Often where the Seabees shine brightest is in disaster relief and humanitarian aid. When natural disaster strikes anywhere in the world, the Seabees are often among the first to spring into action. Using their skills and experience in construction, the Seabees play a major role in the literal rebuilding of cities and nations devastated by hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados and tsunamis. Here are just a few of the countless recovery projects the Naval Construction Battalions have participated in. Hurricane Camille Hurricane Camille struck the Gulf Coast of the U.S. in 1969. A Category 5 hurricane, it made landfall in Mississippi with the second-lowest pressure in recorded history, leaving 259 dead and thousands more injured and homeless. The Naval Construction Battalion Center, a major training complex for Seabees, is based in Gulfport, Mississippi. With their own community devastated by Camille, the Seabees sprang into action to help. The Seabees conducted rescue missions, cleaned up fallen debris, and distributed food, water and supplies to Mississippi residents. Their recovery efforts were rewarded with numerous medals and commendations, including Mississippi governor John Bell Williams naming October 31, 1969 as “Seabees Awards Day.” Hurricane Andrew On August 24, 1992, Category 5 Hurricane Andrew barreled through Homestead, Florida. The massive storm stood as the most destructive one to hit Florida for 25 years. Andrew killed 44 people, left more than 100,000 homeless in Dade County and caused more than $25 billion in damage. Over 800 Seabees were deployed to South Florida to assist in the clean-up and recovery efforts. Along with removing the massive amounts of debris, the Seabees helped to repair government buildings in the area as well as about 270 schools. Operation Restore Hope In 1992, the African coastal nation of Somalia faced severe famine. At one point, nearly 1,000 Somalians were dying daily of starvation. As part of Operation Restore Hope, the United States led the Unified Task Force, a UN-backed multinational coalition which went to the country to render humanitarian aid. This force was to provide relief as well as ensure supplies made it to the right places. Local gangs often stole food and water rations that had come in from around the world. Seabees sent to Somalia built operations camps for the UNITAF, as well as built or repaired roads to act as efficient supply lines to different parts of the country. The Seabees also renovated the Baidoa airstrip, making it possible for C-130 aircraft to land and bring more relief supplies. Hurricane Katrina One of deadliest and most destructive hurricanes ever recorded, Hurricane Katrina left a lasting impact on New Orleans, Louisiana and the surrounding area when it made landfall in August 2005. Damage from both wind and widespread flooding in the coastal city caused $125 billion in property damage, which remains tied as the costliest Atlantic tropical cyclone in history.  Katrina-web Seabees work to restore a child abuse shelter in Waveland, Mississippi, after Hurricane Katrina. Photo from the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Michael Sandberg/Released) More than 3,000 Seabees from across the United States joined in relief efforts, using the Seabee complex in nearby Gulfport, Mississippi, as a command center. The first task for the Seabees was to clear and repair roadways to allow emergency vehicles to enter the area and displaced residents to leave. In less than a month after the storm hit, the Seabees had cleared more than 720 miles of road. By the winter of 2006, the Seabees had removed 20,000 tons of debris, repaired 100 schools and had delivered 237,000 gallons of water and fuel. 2018 Relief PanamaCity-web Seabees clear fallen trees from Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Collin Turner/Released) The Seabees have been active in humanitarian efforts and disaster relief this year. In early October, Hurricane Michael rapidly and unexpectedly intensified as it moved toward Florida’s Panhandle. The storm had the third-lowest barometric pressure at landfall in U.S. history, behind only the aforementioned Camille and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. Michael devastated many of Florida’s Gulf Coast cities, especially Mexico Beach and Panama City. Seabees quickly responded to the disaster, and even today they continue to clear the damage and offer support to the Panhandle. Halfway around the world, the Seabees are also acting in response to a major storm. Returning to the island where their predecessors once built the largest airbase during World War II, more than 150 Seabees are currently hard at work on Tinian and the Mariana Islands in the aftermath of the destructive Super Typhoon Yutu. tinian-web Seabees remove debris caused by Super Typhoon Yutu in Tinian. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Matthew R. White/Released) They Build, They Fight, They Help The Navy Seabees are one of the most unique military units in the world. Although trained to fight alongside their Marine and Army comrades, the Seabees also bring specialized craft construction skills that allow them to build almost anything in any location. The Seabees are a core piece to modern military operations. But their work is not limited to the battlefield. Wherever people need help and something needs to be built, the Seabees are ready. No matter how daunting a project may be, the Navy Seabees “Can Do.” Missed any of our Seabees Construction & Combat series? Click here to return to part one. 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.