This is in response to a letter published on Sunday, 4 April "Letter Re: Advice on U.S. Military Service"
Jim M. says the person should consider joining the Navy Seabees. I am writing to say the exact opposite. Do not consider joining the Seabees at least not at this time. The Naval Construction Force (NCF) consist of six active duty Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB) and 12 reserve NMCBs. (Along with various Cargo Handling Battalions (NCHB), Maintenance Units (CBMU) and others.) With the current fiscal problems and general changes in needs of the DoD, there are heavy cuts in the works.
Between now and 2015 you'll see this force effectively cut in half. Three of the active and six reserve NMCBs will cease to exist. Each is typically manned at about 80%, the unfilled billets (job positions) of the untouched NMCBs will be filled with some of the Bees from the battalions being cut. This will leave about 60% of the remaining half without a position.
These Bees will be in essence 'laid off'. Not pink slipped exactly but will be in a state of limbo. They'll be transferred to Administrative units. Not actual training units, just holding units that will take care of their paperwork (admin/medical). On the plus side, about one-third of those will be retiring in the next 2-4 years and about one-third weren't going to make a career of it and will get out at the end of their contracts in 2-4 years. The remaining third will have to change rates to non-construction related fields and join fleet-type units. Some percent of the total are so hardcore (don't call a Seabee a Sailor), they'll get ticked off and quit rather than change and finish their 20 years. - Seabee B.