AskDefine | Define Seabee

Extensive Definition

The Seabees are the Construction Battalions 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, Battuimus" – 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.
Other unofficial mottos include:
  • "With compassion for others, we build, we fight, for peace with freedom."
  • "With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a bit longer, miracles by appointment only."
  • "We can build anything with nothing in no time at all."
  • "First we dig 'em, then we die in 'em"
  • "We will either find a way or make one."
  • "We build, we fight, we party all night."
The Seabee songs is: We're the Seabees of the navy we can build and we can fight we'll pave the way to victory and guard is day and night and we promise to remember the seventh of December we're the seabees of the navy bees of the seven seas


World War II

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, R.I. (now 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 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 (ACBs) and Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (MCBs).

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 Inchon 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.
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.

Vietnam War

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 such as battalions and regiments.
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

During the Gulf War, more than 5,000 Seabees (4,000 active and 1,000 reservists) served in the Middle East. Other units, including mobilized construction units under the command of Lt.Cdr. Bleu M. Pride served for those deployed forward. 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.

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 deployed to Iraq.


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 percent of the twelve weeks immersed in hands-on training. The remaining 25 percent is spent in classroom instruction. From “A” School, new Seabees most often report to a battalion command for their first tour of duty. For two weeks, the new Seabees go through Seabee Replacement Training (or SERT), or ECS which is a four week long SERT. SERT is a basic combat skills course where the students will spend one week in a classroom environment learning map reading and land navigation, how to lay out defensive plans, conduct patrols and many other combat related skills. The second week is spent at a rifle range where students will learn basic rifle marksmanship and then qualify with the M16 service rifle. At the end of those two weeks, 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 40mm grenade machine gun, the M2HB .50-cal machine gun, or the M240B medium machine gun.
About one third of new Seabees are assigned to Public Works Departments at Naval installations both stateside and overseas. While stationed at a Public Works Department, a Seabee will have the opportunity to get specialized training and extensive experience in one or more facets of their rating.


  • There are seven military occupational specialties or ratings broken down into three groups within the Seabees. In the Equipment group, there are Construction Mechanics or CM and Equipment Operators or EO. In the Utilities group there are Utilitiesmen or UT (plumbers/HVAC) and Construction Electricians or CE. In the Structural group there are Steelworkers or SW, Builders or BU and Engineering Aides or EA (Surveying, Drafting, and Geo-Technical Surveys).
  • The military qualification badge for the Seabees is known as the Seabee Combat Warfare Badge (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), and Underwater Construction Teams (UCT).
  • As opposed to the title of Seaman given to the ranks of E-1 through E-3 in the regular Navy, Seabees are referred to as Constructionmen, and wear sky blue stripes.
  • 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 moments notice for military and humanitarian missions. Naval Support Unit State Department 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 U.S. Navy.
  • In the late 1990s, a group of former Seabees opened the Seabee Museum and Memorial Park in Davisville, Rhode Island, the original home of the Seabees. The Fighting Seabee Statue is located here. There are also U. S. Navy Seabee Museums at the Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, California and at Naval Construction Battalion Center, Gulfport, Mississippi.
  • A common mistake, which most people believe due to pure coincidence and Hollywood, is that the name "Seabees" came from the first two letters of the words "Construction Battalions". The name "SEABEE" came from the creator of the logo, Frank J. Iafrate.
  • Seabees say "Hoorah!" as a war-cry or spirited shout as a sign of motivation. "Hoorah" is taken from the Seabee's close association with the U.S. Marine Corps, where the term originated. It is also said as a way to say something is understood or to aknowledge that you will carry out an order, similar to the way "Aye, aye" is said in the fleet Navy. It is comparable the U.S. Army's "Hooah" and Navy SEAL's "Hooyah".


Frank J. Iafrate, a civilian plan file clerk at Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, R. I., was the originator and artist who designed the original Seabee logo ("Fighting 'Bee") in early 1942. In late 1942, after desigining the logo, he enlisted in the Seabees.
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 and the 133rd Naval Construction Battalion in 1943.

In popular culture

  • Literal "seabees" (similar to the bee depicted on the badge) appear in the computer game Grim Fandango.
  • Tom Cruise, portraying "Maverick" in the 1986 movie Top Gun, had a Seabee patch on the left front breast area of his flight jacket.


External links

Seabee in German: SeaBee
Seabee in Spanish: Seabee
Seabee in French: Seabee
Seabee in Japanese: シービー

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Naval Construction Battalion, Naval Reservist, RN, Royal Marine, Royal Navy, Seabees, USN, United States Navy, argosy, armada, bluejacket, boot, cadet, coast guard, combat engineer, division, engineer, escadrille, fleet, flotilla, frogman, gob, horse marine, jolly, marine, merchant fleet, merchant marine, merchant navy, midshipman, midshipmite, mosquito fleet, naval cadet, naval forces, naval militia, naval reserve, navy, navy man, pioneer, sapper, sapper and miner, squadron, swabbie, task force, task group
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