The air ripples with the unsettling sound of inbound mortar rounds. At the U.S. base in Ar Ramadi in western Iraq, the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 dive into a concrete bunker. As the rounds explode, Chief Steelworker Michael Romero, one of the senior non-coms at the battalion's Ar Ramadi detachment, spots a Humvee with two of his Seabees inside. They hop out, looking for cover. "Drive, don"t walk!" Romero barks, adding to no one in particular, "They're safer in the truck." But the Seabees don't hear him and trot toward the sound of his voice.
Now the noise of outgoing counterfire joins the screams of incoming. Nearby, a truck is burning. All the Seabees make it safely to cover and Romero looks relieved. When the all-clear sounds, he calls for an accounting of his troops.
Within minutes, the Seabees are back at work, hammering together a new wooden hut-a welcome addition to this muddy, primitive base.
Being a Seabee Ain't Easy