PORT HUENEME : 200 Seabees Leaving for Guantanamo


Two hundred Navy Seabees are scheduled to leave today for Guantanamo Bay Navy Base on a mission to build reinforced tents and other buildings to improve the lives of 23,000 Cuban refugees being detained on the base on the southeast coast of Cuba.

The Seabees, based at the Naval Construction Battalion Center at Port Hueneme, are scheduled to leave for Cuba at 9:30 p.m. from the nearby airstrip at the Point Mugu Navy base.

They will join another 200 Seabees who left Port Hueneme earlier this month. All 400 of the Seabees belong to the 630-person Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4.


Many of the remaining members of the battalion will be spending the next seven months in Puerto Rico or will be scattered elsewhere around the globe as part of their regular seven-month tour of duty overseas.

At Guantanamo Bay, the Seabees will build 2,200 reinforced tents and 18 other steel-framed buildings, Navy officials said.

The Seabees, trained in various construction trades, will also improve existing roads to the camps and provide water, electricity and sewage facilities.

The refugees held at Guantanamo Bay are part of the 32,000 Cuban rafters picked up at sea and held at detention camps until it is determined if they will be allowed to enter the United States.

Earlier this month, the Clinton Administration reversed its policy against granting asylum to Cubans who fled on makeshift rafts last summer.

Now, the government plans to allow as many as 10,000 Cubans detained at camps at Guantanamo Bay and in Panama to settle in the United States.