WLOX Newsman Heading Back Home After Joining Seabees In Iraq

WLOX News reporter Nathan Mihelich is on his way back from Iraq, after spending the last two weeks in that country, with NMCB 133 from the Gulfport Seabee base.

The Seabees have stayed very busy. One of their jobs was building a prisoner of war camp in Southern Iraq. The camp is capable of holding up to 14,000 prisoners, and the Seabees built the camp in just four days.

Wednesday, Nathan called us from Kuwait to talk about what the last two weeks have been like for him and the Seabees he was with during that time.

''Just being on a convoy going into Iraq was quite an experience, seeing all the Iraqi citizens smiling as we drove up, giving up the thumbs up sign, it gave all of us a sense we should be here, and we are doing something noble and right," said Mihelich.

The Seabees also found themselves in the midst of a massive sandstorm. Mihelich, who is a native of Chicago, an area known for its strong winds, said that nothing could compare with a Middle East sandstorm.

Here are some excerpts from a conversation Mihelich had with WLOX anchor Jeff Lawson.

Q : Nathan, were you or any of the Seabees ever in any danger?

A: We did travel through a number of areas that were full of land mines. In fact, two vehicles hit land mines and were damaged pretty severely. Fortunately, no one was hurt. While we were in Kuwait, we saw a number of missiles coming our way. That's when we felt like we were in the most danger.

Q : Certainly you had a perception of what being in a war would be like. Was the perception reality, or was it very different for you?

A: I thought we would spend most of our time in a camp, and do a lot of sitting around, but I was very wrong. We were constantly on the move, building camps, working and living in extreme conditions. It was very hot during the day, and very cold at night. Of course sand is everywhere, and there is no way you can avoid it. Conditions can be quite uncomfortable.

Q : Nathan, how well were the Seabees able to actually keep up with developments with the war?

A: Actually, we had very little idea what was going on. I was unaware of many developments until I got back to Kuwait and was able to watch satellite tv. I know some of the Seabees were frustrated because they were not able to keep up with the latest developments.

Q : While traveling through Iraq, did you see any oil fields on fire?

A: Yes, in one case, we were maybe 50 to 100 yards from an oil field that was in flames. I did ask why it could not be put out, and I never really got an answer to that question.

Q : What is the state of mind of the Seabees you were with?

A : They were a lot like me, wondering what is going on back home. They are also anxious to get back home. I will tell you this, the Seabees are a very dedicated and hard working group of men and women. Their jobs are long and arduous, yet they have performed with great professionalism and dedication. I can say to anyone who has family members in the Seabees, you can be very proud of the job these men and women are doing.