In a completely honest forecast, the weatherman in Hattiesburg Mississippi would describe the current conditions as “mostly shitty, with periods of heavy pain, and overnight participation.” Here at Camp Shelby, the rain has been relentless, and the temperature’s been stuck in the thirties for the last few days. Not pretty – unless of course, you want to test the mettle of a few hundred Seabees.
As many of you know, Seabees are the Navy’s construction workers. They dig wells, build bridges, arrange communications, and when necessary, erect a city. But they’re also trained to defend whatever they construct. That’s the fun thing about the Seabees – they can build anything, and then shoot your ass off if you try to take it away.
Pictured here are a few of the men and women I worked with today. They’re standing on a bridge I had the privilege to help build, looking very much like the competent and determined servicepeople they are. They’ve been here for the last few weeks, getting certified to ship off to parts unknown. That’s code for sleeping in the mud, working round the clock, eating delicious MRE’s, and assembling a bridge while people shoot at you. Good times!
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-man 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.