Support our mission

Playing with kids isn’t normally part of the job for combat construction workers and engineers. But it is for 26 Seabees with the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133. They’re spending the week repairing an aging orphanage near the U.S. naval base in Chinhae.

This "green detail," so named because members wear green camouflage instead of their desert uniforms, is unusual for the Gulfport, Miss.-based Seabees, whose last deployments were to Iraq and Kuwait.

"Instead of just building concrete runways, we’re building interior walls and concrete floors," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Sparks during a phone interview.

The Seabees are in Chinhae on a seven-month deployment and are scheduled to finish three major building projects before returning to the States in January. They will be installing better drainage on a dirt road that eventually will be paved, building a parking lot for a future barracks and rebuilding the shelter at a telecommunications site.

At the Jinhae Hope Children’s Home, they’re replacing two roofs and 225 feet of a rotted concrete wall, in addition to making other repairs.

"It’s a wonderful break. We’re still working hard, but it’s different work, and you get to see the kids come out and play. It’s a lot different from working on the side of a mountain all day long," Sparks said, referring to the unit’s shadeless staging area at the base.

The orphanage was built in the 1950s and is home to 70 children from kindergarten through college-age.

When the Seabees deployed to Kuwait, they hung concertina wire around the perimeter of their base and turned a bare-bones barracks into officers’ quarters.

Now, they’re fixing a flooding storage unit, and replacing part of a crumbling retaining wall that could fall and hit the children at the orphanage.

"We’re doing basically little odd jobs. Stuff we see wrong, we’re fixing before it becomes a bigger problem," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Allen, a builder with the unit.

When the Seabees poured a new concrete floor in one building, they let the children put their handprints in the wet floor.

"They love you. All they can say is ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye,’ so all they do all day is walk back and forth saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye,’ " he said. "It’s a lot better here than it is in the desert. It’s good to be somewhere where you’re appreciated more."

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up