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Focus on Service

Building Seabees

The Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering (CSFE) Seabees build their young Sailors from the ground up.

It's been more than 10 years since Equipment Operator 1st Class Roy Summerville came back to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. The last time he was here, he was fresh out of boot camp, a young Sailor about to learn what it takes to be Seabee.

Several deployments, a few pay grades, and a Seabee Combat Warfare pin later Summerville returned to his old A-school, not as a timid seaman recruit but as a 10-year veteran looking to train the next generation of Seabees.

The Navy detachment in Ft. Leonard Wood has been the home to several Navy schools including two A-schools for the Seabee community: Engineering Aide (EA) and Equipment Operator (EO) school. The newest EOs and EAs run through a challenging 13 to 16 week-long joint service course.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Mark Logico

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Mark Logico

"It's a very satisfying job to see these students when they first get here, timid and very impressionable until the time they leave just knowing that they are going to be a great assets to their commands," Summerville said. "We tell them that it's not a game when they get here. This is how you make your bed. This is how we do things over here."

Summerville is one of at least three Navy military trainers (NMT) assigned to the Navy detachment and has the privilege to teach these young Sailors the history and heritage of the Seabees.

"I don't want a student to come through this school and not know what a Seabee is. I want them to build upon the rich heritage that we have," he said.

In fact, new students watch a 1944 war movie "The Fighting Seabees" as part of the checking-in process to the detachment and as required viewing for every "hardcore" Seabee. Although a fictional account of what led to the creation of the Seabees during WWII, the movie lays the baseline ground work to the story of the Seabees.

The Seabee's motto tells the story: "We build, we fight."

In December 1941, Rear Adm. Ben Moreell, Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks, recommended establishing Naval Construction Battalions. With the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entrance into the war, he was given the go-ahead.

The earliest Seabees were recruited directly from the civilian construction trades and were placed under the leadership of the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps. The average age of Seabees during the early days of the war was 37 because of the emphasis on experience and skill rather than on physical standards.

More than 325,000 men served with the Seabees in WWII, fighting and building on six continents and more than 300 islands. In the Pacific, where most of the construction work was needed, the Seabees landed soon after the Marines and built major airstrips, bridges, roads, warehouses, hospitals, gasoline storage tanks and housing.

Read the in-depth story of the Seabees in the December 1945 issue of All Hands.

Read the in-depth story of the Seabees in the December 1945 issue of All Hands.

Today, the Seabee's mission has changed very little as they continue to conduct humanitarian missions building more roads, schools and homes wherever they deploy.

The students take advantage of Summerville's experience who, in his 10-year Seabee career thus far, has deployed to many places such as Iraq, Guam, Afghanistan and Africa.

"I put it ingrained in them that knowledge is power," he said. "If you want something bad enough, you got to go take it. It's not going to get handed to them."

At the end of their respective A-schools, the students graduate and are allowed to shed their blue Navy Working Uniforms (NWUs) for the green type III NWUs complete with the Seabee patch.

"Watching our Sailors earn their Seabee patch during their graduation ceremony is an extremely proud moment that comes with a great deal of pride and sense of accomplishment," Summerville said. "Having the ability to pass on what I have learned throughout my career to the new students and seeing them succeed during their training is the best feeling and knowing that I have made an impact on the mission readiness of the Navy in a good way."

The Seabee Song - Download the audio file

Seabee Song

Seabee Song