Curator’s Corner- Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist Insignia

Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist Insignias; the gold insignia is worn by an officer and the silver is worn by enlisted Seabee (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist Insignias; the gold insignia is worn by an officer and the silver is worn by enlisted Seabee (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

Becoming a Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist (SCW) is earned and is not a privilege. Earning a SCW pin is an amazing achievement in a Seabee’s career and is important to gaining access to other opportunities within the Naval Construction Force (NCF).

The SCW program dates to a Master Chief’s conference in 1992, which concluded that the Seabee community should have a warfare designation to recognize the Seabees’ past accomplishments to the Navy.

The SCW insignia pin features an armed Seabee over a crossed sword and rifle atop oak leaves. The silver insignia is for enlisted personnel and gold is for officers.

To qualify to become a Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist is no easy task. To earn this pin the service member must complete Personal Qualification Standards (PQS) which include Seabee Combat Warfare volume I & II, Naval Construction Force 1&C, and Navy Safety Supervisor from the Navy’s Non-Resident Training Course (NRTC) website. In addition, the Seabee must be within physical standards, qualified with the M-16 rifle or M-4 carbine, and must be currently assigned to a unit of the Naval Construction Force. The Seabee must also take a written exam and a field exercise. Upon completion of all prescribed training, a “murder board,” committee of questioners who help someone prepare for a difficult oral examination, is usually held. Upon completion of the murder board, the final board which lasts about two hours is given. The boards are a way to measure confidence and gauge potential leadership within the Naval Construction Force. If nominees pass the board, they are given the title of a Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist.

Seabees place heavy emphasis on tactical field training and basic combat skills. The Seabee Combat Warfare insignia expresses the motto of the Seabees, “We build, We fight.” Come see the SWC Insignia pins and many other Seabee related memorabilia at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum.

Robyn King, curator

Robyn King, curator

Meet the Curator: Robyn King Robyn King earned her Bachelors in History and Anthropology from the State University of New York at Oneonta. She has experience working at State Museums, Historic Sites, the National Parks Service, and most recently the Navy. She’s an expert in collection management, and has worked closely with both natural and cultural collections. Robyn loves all museums and sharing her love of history. When’s she not working, she’s volunteering her time with the National Peace Corps Association, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from West Africa.

Archivist’s Attic: The Fastest Seabees – The Forgotten Fifty-five

In 1943, the Navy was buzzing around the top coast of New Guinea on their way towards the Philippines. At Mios Woendi the Navy ordered a PT-boat Base to be built. Lieutenant Harold Liberty handpicked fifty-five of the best construction men who were experienced in all phases of construction and eager to work hard.

“Each man had a place in at least three operations,” Liberty explained “The cook could drop his skillet and run a winch or string a pipeline. The hospital corpsman didn’t tie his last bandage and go to bed – he manned a crane or drove a truck.” And each one of them was a potential gunner. Each man could pick up and do another man’s job and do it well.

Crew 55

Just like a swarm of bees, everyman also knew his position and what was expected of them the second they hit the ground. There was no fumbling, no lost motion. Like bees building a hive, the men went in and began going through the hard work of base building.

And build they did, they worked so well together that they started setting records! The Mios Woendi base was built in just 21 days. That feat set the pace for the rest of their operations; soon the detachment was zigzagging from island to island building entire Naval Operating Bases in just 20 days.

With all this speed one wonders, how could they ever be forgotten!? The answer is the same as the question, speed! The outfit moved so quickly, so many times and to so many different places that the men hardly ever got any mail. Forgotten! More like the fast-fifty five or the flashing forward fifty-five.

Whatever you want to call them the Fifty-five lived up to the Seabee standards of Can Do! They just flew by faster than anyone could see them!

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150225-N-JU810-001Meet the Archivist: Ingi House
Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from K.U. and M.L.S. from E.S.U. After working for the Dole Institute of Politics she moved to the East Coast.  In D.C. she worked at the National Archives and Records Admiration and then at the Defense Acquisition University where she became a Certified Archivist. Her continued enjoyment of military history lead her to switching coasts and coming to work for the Seabee Museum where she is collection manager for the archives and records manager liaison.

Archivist’s Attic: Headquarters Construction Companies

October 31, 1941, like Halloween itself, war loomed on the forefront as the U.S. scrambled to get bases built in order to help out her allies. In order to prepare for the possibility of war the Bureau of Yards and Docks (BUDOCKS) decided to organize military units known as “Headquarters Construction Companies.”

Map of the Philippines that “Headquarters Construction Companies” worked on.

Map of the Philippines that “Headquarters Construction Companies” worked on.

Up until 1941 construction work done on U.S. bases was done by contracts utilizing civilian labor. Civilians that were not part of the military, had no military training, and would be caught like a deer in a headlight in combat situations. Furthermore, under military law, the contractor’s forces in their status as civilians could not offer resistance when the bases they were constructing were under attack, if they did, they would be considered guerillas and would have been liable to summary execution if captured.

Map of Puerto Rico, 18 March 1941.

Map of Puerto Rico, 18 March 1941.

The “Headquarters Construction Companies” were designed to give the military oversight on to base construction until another solution could be worked out. These units were composed largely of rated personnel that were utilized as administrative units by officers in charge of construction at advance bases in case war interrupted contract operations. One company was organized by the Bureau of Navigation and granted authority for the enlistment of its personnel in Class V-6 of the Naval Reserve. That company formed the nucleus of the First Naval Construction Detachment, the Bobcats, which became the first unit of the newly formed Seabees.

The Seabees officially came into being on December 28th, 1941, and the “Headquarters Construction Companies” became a part of history. While the companies were only used for a short time, they set up the organization and most importantly contributed the men that would become the Seabees. As we head into the early holiday season, remember that even the scariest of times can have a very merry ending.

150225-N-JU810-001Meet the Archivist: Ingi House
Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from K.U. and M.L.S. from E.S.U. After working for the Dole Institute of Politics she moved to the East Coast.  In D.C. she worked at the National Archives and Records Admiration and then at the Defense Acquisition University where she became a Certified Archivist. Her continued enjoyment of military history lead her to switching coasts and coming to work for the Seabee Museum where she is collection manager for the archives and records manager liaison.