Spending most of my life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, interacting with friends and co-workers who had spent time as one of the Navy’s most unsung sailors– Seabees– has been common as about half of the Bees in the country are based in Gulfport. Lots of great guys who always seem to have a sense of humor, and for good reason.
You often see those sad, tan and green convoys heading from Gulfport up Highway 49 to Camp Shelby, a Guard base that always felt stuck in 1943 to me, so they could get their annual field combat training in.
Which, knowing Gulf Mississippi, is always wet and miserable.
180820-N-ZI635-258 CAMP SHELBY, Miss. (Aug. 20, 2018) Seabees stand inside their fighting position during Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133’s field training exercise (FTX) at Camp Shelby. FTX provides a robust training environment where Seabee forces plan and execute multiple mission essential tasks including convoy security, force protection, and camp buildup prior to deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class George M. Bell/Released)
You know what they say, “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.”
Speaking of which, the Navy just posted a great 13-minute doc following the Bees of historic Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 (NMCB 133) on a recent three-week FTX at Shelby, which sounds better than it is.
The below images are from the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, depicting Doughboys of the newly formed National Army’s 38th “Cyclone” Infantry Division preparing at Camp Shelby outside of Hattiesburg for overseas service in WWI. The photos give a window into the equipment, men and animals of an ammunition train, a vital service which kept the Army fighting longer than 30 minutes.
Field marching order, note the M1917 Enfield
Pup tents and Army mules
Note the pioneer tools
As anyone familiar with the training area around Shelby should know, the roads there was good practice to those rutted muddy paths on the Western Front.
The 17-page scrapbook was donated to the museum in 1990 by TD White of Purvis, MS, and sadly the names of the men and mules in it are lost to history.
This is why Seabees hate Camp Shelby:
Remember, at Shelby, you can always use your E-tool as a paddle. (U.S. Navy photo 180820-N-ZI635-258 by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class George M. Bell/Released)
Offical caption: “CAMP SHELBY, Miss. (Aug. 20, 2018) Seabees stand inside their fighting position during Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133’s field training exercise (FTX) at Camp Shelby. FTX provides a robust training environment where Seabee forces plan and execute multiple mission essential tasks including convoy security, force protection, and camp buildup prior to deployment.”
Spread out across 130,000 acres of Mississippi pine forest, gumbo mud swamp and Afrika Korps POW camp carved out of even more rugged DeSoto National Forest, Shelby is the largest state-owned training center in the country and I have spent much time there. Established during the Great War, the famous 38th Infantry “Cyclone” Division formed there before deploying to the Western Front. During WWII the even more famous 442nd RCT and 100th “One Puka Puka” Bn trained there before heading to eternal glory in Europe at places like Hill 140, Castellina and Vosges Mountains.
Since then, Guard units from around the Southeast trained there for the Sandbox– as well as the Gulfport-based Seabees, who attend regular FTXs there among the WWII Q-huts and hummingbird-sized mosquitos.
However, the base does have a great museum on site, open to the public, and you don’t even have to get your feet dirty to check it out.