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November 29, 2002

Hueneme Seabees sent to Mideast

American continues silently to buildup of forces in Middle East.
About 100 Seabees from Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme have been deployed to the Middle East as the United States prepares for possible war with Iraq.

The battalion of construction engineers is working at two undisclosed air bases in the region, "pushing a lot of dirt and placing a lot of concrete," said battalion Cmdr. David Fleisch in a news release cited in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

Seabees are making airfield improvements and have begun adding barriers made up of dirt, sand and gravel to improve security, according to the release. During the deployment, crews will also have to move about 30,000 cubic meters of dirt.

Seabee spokeswoman Linda Wadley had not seen the news release but did confirm that an air detachment from Battalion Five was ordered to the Middle East last month "in support of Operation Enduring Freedom." The military newspaper stated that additional Seabees will be joining those units in the next few days.

The location of the Middle East air bases was not disclosed because of security concerns. The Seabees were in Rota, Spain, on a routine training deployment when the order came through, Wadley said.

The deployment is the latest in a string of missions for the Port Hueneme-based Seabees in the war against terrorism around the globe. In February, nearly 60 Seabees were sent to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba to construct prison cells for an estimated 300 suspects linked to terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.

Another battalion from the Ventura County base was recently sent to the Philippines in support of allied forces fighting violent Muslim extremist groups there.

In the past few months, the United States has built up forces close to Iraq in anticipation of a military showdown over purported stockpiles of biological and nuclear weapon ingredients. More than 12,000 U.S. forces are in Kuwait training in desert warfare. At least another 14,000 are in other Persian Gulf nations, and the Navy has an aircraft carrier, the USS Lincoln, in the northern Persian Gulf with more than 5,500 sailors and dozens of warplanes aboard.

Earlier this month, Seabees in Rota moved about 140 pieces of construction equipment to the Middle East air bases within 48 hours, according to the battalion news release cited by Stars and Stripes.

About 40 pieces went by ship contracted by the Navy.

In addition to Battalion Five, another group of Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, based in Gulfport, Miss., will go to the region sometime this month, the release stated.

Port Hueneme is home to roughly 3,000 Seabees.