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All-women team of Seabees makes history in Afghanistan

January 22, 2012 |  8:58 pm

It was an unusual job even for the Seabees, the U.S. Navy’s construction forces trained to hold a hammer in one hand and a Beretta M9 in the other.

First, the team selected to build barracks high in the mountains of Afghanistan consisted of eight women, who are all stationed at Naval Base Ventura County. And second, the women completed the job far ahead of schedule.

Beating deadline made up for long days and freezing nights in tents without plumbing, building four 20-by-30-foot structures, said Mission Cmdr. Gafayat Moradeyo.

But when the women returned to Bagram air field, their Afghanistan base, they learned that they had nailed another achievement: a place in naval history.

Military officials say they are the first all-female construction team to take on a construction job from start to finish in the Seabees’ 70-year history. And they did it in record time in the barren rocky mountains of Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold and the focus of recent combat efforts.

At first, the women had their doubts about the achievement. But after checking with military historians and naval museums, they confirmed their status, said Shelby Lutrey, 29, one of the builders.

“It’s definitely something to be proud of,” she said. “There is nothing wrong with hard work and good results.”

The Seabees were created during World War II to fill a critical demand for construction workers who could also fight. Today, there are nine battalions operating out of two U.S. bases, deploying overseas to build airstrips, bridges, roads, living quarters, just about anything needed in a military operation.


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Photo: A team of Seabees selected to build barracks high in the Afghanistan mountains has become the first all-female construction team to take on a build from start to finish in the Seabees 70-year history. And they did it record time. Credit: Department of the Navy