News: US Navy Seabees close Camp Moreell, transfer camp to the US Army
Story by Chief Petty Officer Scott Boyle
CAMP MOREELL, Kuwait – The primary hub for U.S. Navy Seabee deployments to and from Iraq and Afghanistan was closed May 23, during a ceremony held on Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait.
For 10 years, Camp Moreell served as the main Seabee ground base and assembly point for all Seabees and many Sailors who deployed across Southwest Asia, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
Cmdr. Matthew Motsko, Officer-in-Charge, 25th Naval Construction Regiment Forward said Camp Moreell was a mainstay for all Seabees who prosecuted the multiple operations over the past 10 years.
“The closing of Camp Moreell is a somber feeling,” he said. “It's the end of an era, but a necessary event given the positive progress being made.”
“The camp was the first stop for Seabees, where we acclimatized to the cold desert air in winter and the heat of summer,” said 25 NCR Commander, Capt. Darius Banaji. “It was where we recounted our deployments and went through a transition period before heading home to our families,” Banaji said.
Named after Adm. Ben Moreell, the former commander of the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps and the founding father of the Seabees, the camp supported 55,000 Seabees during 39 Naval Mobile Construction Battalion deployments and 20 Naval Construction Regiment deployments.
Command Master Chief Constructionman Rodney Gardner, 25 NCR Command Master Chief, said the camp went through some major changes over the years.
“The first time I went through [Camp Moreell] back in 2002 it was nothing but tents with plywood floors,” he said. "The showers were so far away that you would be covered in dust by the time you got to your tent.”
“But over time, the tents were replaced by permanent structures, Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities and a great gym,” he said. “It really became a home away from home for us.”
For Motsko, the Camp’s legacy will live on even after it closes.
“Camp Moreell is what Seabees remember as home, right before they went out the door to perform their missions further into harm's way while feeling comfort knowing someone had the watch and they could rest easy,” he said. “[Camp Moreell] was and still is, an icon.”
While Camp Moreell is now closed for the Seabees, its importance to the mission has not changed. The U.S. Army's Alpha Company, 427th Brigade Support Battalion, which took control of the camp, is keeping the name intact in honor of the men and women who built and maintained it for the past 10 years.
“We will honor the namesake of the Camp and respect what it means to your storied and proud heritage,” U.S. Army Col. Robert Cheatham Jr., commander, Area Support Group – Kuwait, said during the transfer ceremony.
Cheatham also thanked the Seabees for building, maintaining and preparing the camp so that it could continue to be used to support troops coming through Kuwait.
“We are humbled the Army and future tenants will keep the namesake of Camp Moreell,” Banaji said.
At the beginning of the transfer ceremony, Master Chief Equipmentman Charles Boris read the names of 20 fallen Seabees who all passed through Camp Moreell between 2003 and 2011.
“It was important, even imperative, to remember that all gave some, but some gave all and some paid the ultimate sacrifice during operations over the past 10 years,” Motsko said.