Director’s Notes

I did not think it would be possible to top, but the second edition of The SeabeeGram is as exciting as the first. One of the most thrilling things the museum gets to share in this newsletter is the announcement about the reopening of the museum. Even though the museum facility has been closed to visitors since March 2020, the museum staff has been providing “virtual” Seabee history to the public. The museum posts daily on both Facebook and Instagram. One of the more popular daily posts is called “Caption This” which shares a historical Seabee photo and engages followers to add their own description. The museum’s collection staff has taken advantage of the open galleries to conduct a comprehensive inventory of the artifacts on exhibit. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the new museum facility. In commemoration, the exhibit team has been working on an exhibit called “Breaking Ground: Transforming the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum” that explores the history of the museum from its humble beginnings in 1947 through the Quonset hut years and the present day.

The second inspiring part of this newsletter is the inclusion of an historical article about the Seabees role in Operation Provide Comfort (OPC). Starting in April 1991, in the aftermath of the First Gulf War, the United States and other Coalition nations initiated Operation Provide Comfort, military operations to defend Kurdish refugees fleeing their homes in northern Iraq and to deliver humanitarian aid to them. In this issue CAPT Don Hutchins, CEC, USN (ret), the Commanding Officer of NMCB 133 from 1989 to 1991, shares his firsthand experience of what the Seabees did to support the Kurdish refugees. Despite the value of their work in improving the human condition, the Seabees received minimal contemporary recognition for their accomplishments. Today, the museum has nothing on exhibit and little in the collections related to the Seabees support of OPC. Until now, it has been an untold story. One of the purposes of publishing this newsletter is to capture some of these untold stories, especially the more contemporary ones preferably from those who experienced it firsthand. CAPT Hutchins has not only voiced the untold story of the Seabees in Operation Provide Comfort, but he has done it in a well-written, colorful, and very Seabee way! Also included is the poem “The Kurdish Catastrophe” written by CM2 Douglas Lanning who also served in NMCB 133. CM2 Lanning first recited this poem in May 1991 while in Zakho, Iraq. It serves as a heartfelt reminder of what it must have been like to serve as a Seabee helping the Kurdish refugees and echoes the motto inscribed on the Seabee Memorial: “With compassion for others, we build, we fight, for peace with freedom."

Happy history hunting,

Lara Godbille, Ph.D.

Director, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Naval History and Heritage Command