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How Can I Become a Heavy Equipment Operator for the Navy?

Research what it takes to become a heavy equipment operator for the U.S. Navy. Learn about training, job duties, education requirements and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Heavy Equipment Operator for the Navy?

Heavy equipment operators are U.S. Navy personnel who operate specialized machinery for Navy construction projects. They are sometimes referred to as Navy Construction Battalion members or Seabees, and they may be enlisted members or officers. In some cases, they may work on domestic projects, and in others, they may use heavy equipment for infrastructure projects in other parts of the world. In addition to directly operating machinery, they may also perform routine maintenance and make basic repairs.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Education Required High school diploma
Training Required On-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Participate in Navy construction projects, drive heavy machinery, estimate costs of projects, perform equipment maintenance
Job Growth (2018-2028) Little to no change in employment for all military careers*
Median Salary (2018) $46,990 for construction equipment operators*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Who Are Navy Construction Battalion Heavy Equipment Operators?

You've probably heard the Navy Construction Battalion called by another name, the Seabees. Started in 1941, this group is responsible for Navy construction projects all over the world. Seabees who run heavy equipment are called equipment operators or EOs. Seabees are trained not only in construction but in combat skills, reflecting their motto, ''We Build, We Fight'' and the military's purpose to protect and defend the United States. EOs enlist for five years.

What Kind of Work Would I Do?

The work of the Navy Construction Battalion is diverse. As an EO on a typical project, you'd be part of a team that includes builders, mechanics, electricians and masons, among other specialties. Construction projects might be repairing a paved road, building new barracks on a naval base, drilling for water or blasting operations in a quarry. You'd drive heavy machinery, such as bulldozers for moving earth and rocks, forklifts for moving materials and cranes for pile-driving. You might also do project cost estimating, read blueprints and perform equipment maintenance.

Seabees also respond to natural disasters such as earthquakes and participate in rescue operations throughout the world. As an EO, you'd be operating the heavy machinery needed to help remove debris and restore roads and power. In war zones, EOs sometimes help with containment of radioactive, biological or chemical contamination.

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

You don't have to have a college degree to become an EO but you receive on-the-job training through the Navy's construction program. In addition to hands-on equipment training and classroom learning, the program emphasizes development of your resourcefulness, ability to work independently and teamwork. If you want a college degree, the field training you get may apply toward degree requirements, and the Navy will contribute towards tuition.

What Will I Get Paid?

Navy wages vary with status, experience and location. The military also provides housing, tax and meal allowances that effectively increase wages (www.navy.com). According to the BLS, construction equipment operators earned a median annual salary of $46,990 as of May 2018.

What Can I Do Once I'm Out of the Service?

Your EO skills can transfer to the civilian sector. You might work on civil engineering projects like roads and bridges. Other options are utilities, high-rise construction, marine construction or mining. You might also obtain a job in the energy field and work on pipelines or oil rigs.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Rather than working for the Navy, you could get a job operating heavy equipment for civilian purposes. For example, you could consider becoming a crane operator at a major port, where you would use a crane to move cargo onto and off of commercial carrier ships. Another possibility is a job as a dredge operator for a commercial waterway. This occupation involves using a machine that removes sand, gravel and rocks from bodies of water. For either of these heavy equipment operation jobs, you need to have at least a high school diploma.