Mike Rowe’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT Thursdays on CNN.
Can a bridge be built in less than an hour?
If you’re a member of the Navy’s Seabees, it can – along with makeshift airfields, hospitals, base camps, bunkers and more for U.S. military use.
The Navy’s construction force has been following their motto of “we build, we fight” since they were formed during World War II.
Since its creation, the Seabees have gone on to build projects during conflicts and wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq, as well as on the continent of Antarctica for scientific purposes.
The “fight” portion of the motto exists because their job isn’t done after construction; they also have to know how to defend the newly erected facilities against enemy attack, as well as learn basic medical training.
“They’re plumbers, electricians, masons and engineers and they go in right after the Marines have taken the beach to make everything work,” CNN host Mike Rowe explained during a recent visit with the Seabees at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
“And without them, our military would have a serious infrastructure problem.”
Frank Iafrate, who was in charge of creating the original caricature for the then-named Naval Construction Battalions, originally thought of a more logical choice for the builders of the Navy: the beaver.
The fighting bees
“But then I did some research, and found out that when a beaver is threatened it runs away. So, the beaver was out,” said Iafrate.
Then Iafrate got a bee in one’s bonnet, and picked up his sketchbook..
“Then I thought of a bee…The busy worker, who doesn’t bother you unless you bother him. But provoked, the bee stings. It seemed like an ideal symbol,” Iafrate said.
No quarter, no complaining
“I was going to tell you about the many physical challenges of the day, and rave about the skill and work ethic of these extraordinary people. But at the moment, I’m preoccupied by their physical toughness and refusal to complain. These men and women have been quartered here for the last two weeks in ‘teacups,’ tiny one-person pup tents that sit in the mud.
“As I ride to a nice hotel in New Orleans with delicious heat blasting onto my frozen feet and into my frosty face, these guys are hunkering down for another evening of 5-star luxury under the invisible stars, in a place the Mississippi Tourism Bureau doesn’t feature in their brochures. And if tomorrow is anything like today, there will be no quarter, and no complaining.
“If you want to feel good about the skilled trades, and the future of the country, reacquaint yourself with The Seabees. Or better yet, just say thanks. They’ll appreciate it. And if you’re looking for a comfortable corner office with reliable climate control … look somewhere else.””