A Conversation with Former Navy Seabee: Robert Sletten
Born in Florence, South Carolina on February 9, 1944, Robert Sletten grew up in a family that moved frequently. He, along with his five younger sisters, was a military brat, due to his father’s service in the U.S. Air Force. Having attended twelve different schools before college, Bob Sletten moved from place to place, with the underlying assumption that he, too, would eventually fulfill his civic duty and serve in the Armed Forces, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. After graduating as a Civil Engineering major from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, he was recruited into the Navy Seabees and attended Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, to prepare for deployment to Vietnam.
In South Vietnam, Robert Sletten served two tours, both as a member of Charlie Company in Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 71. His first tour, which spanned April to December of 1968, was spent at U.S. bases located in Chu Lai and Phu Loc in Central Vietnam. Among other things, Sletten and his men served as security forces for a rock quarry and crusher. During his second tour, Sletten served in Phuoc Tuy province as Officer-in-Charge of a 13-man unit known as Seabee Team 7102. During that deployment, he and his men worked on a variety of civic action projects, including road improvements, construction of rice warehouses, and Vietnamese Information Reading Rooms.
After his discharge, Sletten pursued his master’s degree in engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, with his wife. He opted to make a career as an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserves, retiring from service in 1994. After graduate school, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he worked at the Philadelphia District of the Army Corps of Engineers. Sletten later moved to New Hampshire to take a civilian position at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL). Since his 2004 retirement from CRREL, Sletten and his wife have continued to live in West Lebanon, New Hampshire.
The full transcript of Robert Sletten's oral history can be found below, upon clicking the title of the transcript on the linked page. To access the audio file of the full interview, please click here.