"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.