The original Navy civil engineering and public works presence in the Midwest dates to 1904, when the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks (BUDOCKS), forerunner to Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), assigned Lt. George A. McKay as the engineer to oversee construction of Naval Training Station Great Lakes in northern Illinois. This, the Navy’s first training base, opened July 1, 1911, after six years of construction led by McKay and prominent architect Jarvis Hunt.
When U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 suddenly called for training many thousands of new Sailors, “the Fighting Tradesmen” of the 12th Regiment--Sailors with skills in construction--helped civilian workers build hundreds of new support buildings at Great Lakes. Those Sailors were the forerunners of today’s Navy Seabees.
During subsequent decades, including expansion during war and contraction during peace, Navy civil engineers, Seabees and civilians have continued to support the Navy in the Midwest under various organizations.
In June 1945, the district public works office, 9th Naval District, was established to support training at then-Naval Training Center Great Lakes. BUDOCKS later expanded the office’s responsibilities and established the Midwest Division, BUDOCKS, March 16, 1965.
When the Navy discontinued the bureau system in 1966, BUDOCKS Midwest Division became the Midwest Division, NAVFAC, on May 1 of that year.
Midwest Division, NAVFAC, was disestablished June 30, 1970, and the public works center (PWC) was placed under the command of the newly-established NAVFAC Northern Division, located in Philadelphia, Pa.
In April 1987, the Chief of Naval Operations’ command realignment plan placed PWC Great Lakes under the operational control of Commander, Naval Training Center Great Lakes, with engineering support provided by NAVFAC Northern Division.
As part of a 1991 NAVFAC reorganization, Engineering Field Activity (EFA) Midwest was established Oct. 29, 1992, to provide local engineering support to the area’s major commands, and EFA Midwest was placed under NAVFAC Southern Division.
In 2003, PWC Crane at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Crane, Ind., was established when Navy Installations Command became the central manager of Navy shore facilities. The former public works directorate under Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane was realigned under the commanding officer of both EFA Midwest and PWC Great Lakes Oct. 1 of that year.
NAVFAC Midwest was established July 8, 2004, from EFA Midwest, PWC Great Lakes and PWC Crane to support Navy and Marine Corps facilities throughout the Midwest region. This was part of a broad reorganization called NAVFAC Transformation. The reorganization established Public Works Department (PWD) Great Lakes and PWD Crane to focus solely on their installations. In 2006, PWD Mid-South was established at Naval Support Activity Mid-South, Millington, Tenn., and PWD Central, headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes, was established to support Navy Reserve and U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Forces (MARFORRES) facilities in the Midwest. In 2012, PWD Central also became the single, centralized provider of support to MARFORRES across the U.S.