Is There Anything A Seabee Can’t Build?

Updated: August 8, 2012


By RU Guest Blogger Don Forest

Recently, my buddy sent me a link to a story online of a Navy Dad who overhauled and restored his squid son’s prized broken down automobile while son was deployed with a Navy Construction Battalion (“CB” aka Seabee) unit.

It was a heart-warming story, and the Seabee’s Dad gave him an amazing welcome home gift in the restoration, but I replied to my buddy that I was surprised the kid had not already built himself a plywood replica car, including working 4-cylinder gasoline combustion engine, made completely out of carved wood, joist brackets and roofing nails.

No shit, there we were, Iraq 2004. The war had been “over” for several months when inexplicably combat engagements kept flaring up every hour in every province, necessitating our U.S. Army Cavalry Regiment to cancel our redeployment. Instead of going home, we ended up leaving Baghdad to go see what was up in Najaf. Little did I know, but this would be an opportunity to see just what the human spirit can truly achieve when we decide to make cool and/or necessary shit out of sheets of plywood.

The day we rolled up at our new Regimental HQ, an abandoned and gutted Iraqi army logistics outpost, was the day it became evident that these standing structures we had seen on a long-distance UAV feed were completely ransacked, and contained nothing but walls and roofs. We were awarded a joint tasking from Higher to have Navy Construction Battalion personnel come over and outfit our commandeered buildings. The Seabees were in this sector already, working on rebuilding roads and stuff to rejuvenate the Najaf/Kufa community, and so we were able to have them come assist us by pimping out our AO as well. This is where it gets blurry in my mind, but in the coming weeks I remember waking up each morning to find new fascinating and magical wooden treasures had been built around our makeshift FOB during the night.

Here are several anecdotes from my personal journal of Iraq memoirs (may or may not be fictitious):

06May2004 – Seabees moved into the FOB with us today, and for the next hour or two all we heard from their area was sawing and hammering. SSG Snuffy went over there to see what they were doing, and he came back pissed asking why the hell nobody told him there was a massive wooden MWR recreation tent and plywood swimming pool on this FOB. Apparently the Seabees are making themselves at home. They did come over to our TOC later with a fairly elaborate maple armchair recliner for the Regimental XO, complete with a wooden dowel handle to lay it back. RXO fell asleep in it after chow, hilarious.

12May2004 – Walked into the TOC today and saw that the Seabees had whipped together some wooden bookshelves that looked like Ethan Allen without the varnish. Complete with cute little wooden books, that had thin little wooden pages and wooden book covers. Must remember to pick one up for something to read in the shitter. New Yankee Workshop up in here!

17May2004 – What the hell! Someone hauled away three of our portashitters last night including the good one, and replaced them with a plywood replica of a Saddam palace bathroom. Thing looks like a 7 or 8 foot tall mini-mosque, and when you go inside there are handcarved wooden toilets with gold spray-painted seats & lids. They even made a wooden haji squat toilet, with a wooden hose and wooden water nozzle for cleanup. Genius, Seabees.Genius.

18May 2004 – The S3 Sergeant Major had most of our enlisted RTO’s doing pushups outside in the heat today. SPC Joe told me later it was because somebody went over to the Seabees and told them the OPS Sergeant Major had requested a tasking if they could fabricate a 12 foot tall male genitalia wang out of particle board. They had nothing else to build right then, so the Seabees had the whole shaft and most of the balls done before the SGM happened to walk by and one of the squids asked him how he liked the dick so far. Not good.

29May2004 – Damn Seabees!!!! This shit is getting old! I went to answer a radio check today, only to find that the squids had built us a fully functional *wooden* SINCGARS radio, complete with birch handset and 550 cord commo cable. Still have splinters in my ear from that piece of shit radio. Not to mention, somebody misplaced the hand-carved oak ANCD to program the radio, so we were locked down for a 2 hour sensitive items check looking for the damn thing. All is well now, S2 had thrown it in a burn barrel as fuel.

02Jun2004 – Someone, probably one of our Lieutenants, burned cigarette holes in my newest wooden Maxim magazine from the Seabees, right in the middle of one of the pencil drawings of hot Maxim chicks. Good thing I had already jig sawed out a few of the hotter drawings and nailed them to the wall of my hooch.

05Jun2004 – Carved cherry wood utensils at chow hall. Now the food tastes even more like sawdust.

09Jun2004 – Went to put on my Gore-Tex jacket last night because it was pissing mud out of the sky again. Hard to get my arms thru the sleeves in the dark, and once I found a chemlight I realized the sonovabitch Seabees had replaced my issue Gore-Tex with a wooden garment of similar dimensions and styling! This is bullshit. CIF is gonna laugh me out the door if I try to turn in a balsa wood coat!

11Jun2004 – Had to go see the medics again today, more salve for the butt splinters I keep getting from the new wooden toilet paper. Why do you hate us, Seabees?

14Jun2004 – I gotta get out of this f**king place. Saw three plywood Humvees roll out the gate today. Now all haji has to do is set up termite IED’s and we are f**ked.

18Jun2004 – They told me my wooden fleshlight is almost done. Think I will nickname ‘her’ the Trojan wHorse. They need to let the lacquer dry another day so I don’t get difficult-to-explain splinters in certain places…








  1. Antonio Aguilar

    August 8, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Drop me a line some time. I think I was in Najaf during that time too.

    [email protected]

    For the record, all I remember was overflowing port-o-potties and mortars, but maybe I was on a different FOB. I would have liked to use those wooden ones though!

    • Perry

      August 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Seabees are NOT squids they are Seabees. The proper Navy term may be “Dirt Sailor” but NEVER squid. As a Seabee with 3 Vietnam tours I know the difference. Now you do as well.

      • Al Gonzales

        August 15, 2012 at 8:17 am


        Thanks for squaring this away!!! You would think that Soldiers would know not to call us “squids” since they need us more than our own Navy does. All I know is, I am never happier than when I’m making a FOB/COP/Whatever-the-hell-forward-middle of nowhere hellhole better than it was when I got there and easier to live in for the guys that make things happen

  2. Ja-Ronius

    August 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Perry and Al:
    I’m an Army soldier, but my father was a Vietnam era Sea Bee and my Grandfather was WWII Sea Bee. That’s kind of how my dad got to marry my mom…Anyway, my whole life I saw these two great men exemplify exactly what “Can Do!” means. I saw exactly what you “dirt sailors” do when I was in Iraq in 04…and no, there is literally nothing you bastards can’t build, fix, or improve. Though I’ll never take back a rust pickin, squid insult I’ve ever uttered about the sailors, I have nothing but respect for you guys that build and fight.

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