by Ryan Labadens, U.S. Navy Public Affairs

The Seabees have been the military construction arm of the U.S. Navy since 1942. The first Seabees were civilian construction workers who enlisted early in World War II to continue building for the Navy in the Pacific Theater and in Europe. Their accomplishments during the war are legendary.

Nearly 200,000 men, master craftsmen, the most skillful of the nation’s skilled workers, are credited with paving the road to victory for the allies in the Pacific and in Europe. 

The Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Mississippi, also traces its origins back to the early days of World War II. Land for the installation was acquired on a plot a mile northwest of the Port of Gulfport in April 1942, and an Advanced Base Depot was established June 2, 1942, in Gulfport.

An Armed Guard School and a Cooks and Bakers School were added in October 1942, followed by an Advanced Base Receiving Barracks in November, at which time some of the first Seabees were stationed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast during World War II.

The mission of the Center changed from a receiving organization to a U.S. Naval Training Center later in the war in March of 1944. The base provided training in basic engineering, diesel, radioman, quartermaster and electrician’s ratings.

Continuing realignments occurred, creating a single command of the Naval Training Center and the Advanced Base Depot. The Depot became the U.S. Naval Storehouse in 1945 and the Training Center was decommissioned in 1946.

In 1948, the station became custodian of certain national stockpile materials. 

The base population between the late 1940s and early 1960s dropped to about 10 officers and enlisted personnel. Civilian employees fluctuated with the amount of strategic supplies and construction equipment being received, stored and trans-shipped.

Some important organizational changes were made early in 1952 when the Naval Storehouse was disestablished and the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion Center was established.

The Navy’s mushrooming commitments for construction forces in Southeast Asia led the way to an increased mission for the Center in February 1966. The first group of 509 Seabees arrived unannounced from Davisville, Rhode Island, in March 1966.

The galley, barracks and other personnel support facilities were still closed and locked. A base fireman, with a knack for cooking, was hastily recruited to prepare fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Other civilian employees opened the barracks, turned on gas and electricity, installed bunks and served as mess cooks.

The 20th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) was recommissioned April 17, 1966, nearly two decades after its decommissioning following World War II.

Located at Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, 20NCR was reestablished to support the buildup of the Naval Construction Force (NCF) during the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

Eight months later, the Center had expanded to include new functions such as Seabee Team Training and a new tenant, Construction Training Unit.

The staff for the Naval Construction Battalion Center had expanded to support approximately 4,200 Seabees. A personnel training facility, which had been inactive for 20 years, was effectively forming, staging, training and home porting Naval Mobile Construction Battalions. 

After the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq called for more Seabees to be added to the force. 20NCR became the 20th Seabee Readiness Group (SRG) Jan. 9, 2003 in order to more effectively function as the training arm of the Atlantic Fleet Seabees.

On Sept. 14, 2007, in an attempt to meet the overwhelming demand for Naval Construction Forces (NCF) throughout the world, NMCB 11 which was decommissioned Dec. 15, 1969, and 25 NCR, which was deactivated Nov. 30, 1945, were recommissioned in Gulfport.

In addition, the Naval Mobilization Processing Site was also established. They have processed thousands of active duty and Reservists through Gulfport. The Expeditionary Combat Skills site was also stood up.

Since 2008, ECS has trained thousands of Navy personnel in essential life-saving battlefield skills. 

Contributing to the local community is a Seabee norm. Before, during and after Hurricane Katrina made landfall here in August 2005, Seabees worked long and hard.

Seabee volunteers have contributed hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours assisting in the local community since Hurricane Katrina, they continue to be a good neighbor answering various requests for help from the local community on a daily basis.

In the midst of the Gulf Coast recovery process, the Seabee Center built more than $450 million worth in new facilities as a result of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Permanent repairs, which include the Military Construction Program Recapitalization Plan, were completed in 2009.

Like the landscape of the base, NCBC Gulfport’s tenants are changing. With the drawdown in Afghanistan and tighter budgets, force reductions and restructuring needed to occur.

On Feb. 26, 2013, a significant realignment/decommissioning ceremony took place. Prior to the ceremony, the base and 20th SRG were governed by one commanding officer.

The ceremony saw the two separated under two commanding officers and the decommissioning of 25NCR. 20SRG was renamed Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2 as part of the massive NCF restructuring. Included in the transformation, the 22NCR became an embedded yet independent Command capable of the forward deployment of an integrated Battle Staff that is able to execute combat service support missions across the spectrum of joint and combined military operations while providing command and control over Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) units as part of a robust Adaptive Force Package (AFP).

Ever since the U.S. ended military operations in Afghanistan in 2021, the U.S. Navy Seabees have still been active in their continued support of U.S. Navy and Department of Defense objectives.

Wherever there is a need for their ‘Can Do’ spirit, the Seabees will be ready to support the United States and its allies wherever they are needed across the globe.