By Sue Brink, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs Office
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast Seabees, civilian employees and guests gathered at the base officers club for a formal ball March 5, to celebrate the 174th birthday of NAVFAC, the 149th birthday of the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) and the 74th birthday of the Seabees.
United States Navy Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, congratulated the men and women of NAVFAC, the CEC and Seabees everywhere on the occasion of the anniversaries in a message to the field March 5.
"The unique skills and capabilities you bring to bear in support of our Navy and the Nation have never been more important than they are now," said Richardson. "Through your achievements and sacrifices, you build on your proud history, meeting todays diverse and demanding missions around the world. You exemplify the Navy core values of honor, courage and commitment. You live lives defined by integrity, accountability, initiative and toughness."
NAVFAC Commander and Chief of Civil Engineers Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg echoed similar sentiments in another message to the field March 5 highlighting the Seabees birthday.
"This year we celebrate the 74th anniversary of the establishment of the Seabees," said Muilenburg. "During World War II the Seabees were established and performed now legendary deeds in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters of Operation. Seventy-four years later the patch of the Seabees is still present throughout the Pacific and worldwide. What Seabees did seven decades ago, they continue to do today."
The Seabees, founded by Rear Adm. Ben Moreell in 1942, rose to fame during World War II when the Navy's construction battalions or "CBs" provided combat support for the Allied war effort. They assisted in constructing an artificial harbor at Normandy after D-Day, supported Marines on Iwo Jima and transformed countless islands and outposts into workable bases for the Allied march to victory. Led by CEC officers, the Seabees' official motto "Construimus Batuimus" translates to English as "we build we fight."
The Director of the Marine Corps Expeditionary School, Col. Jason Bohm, was the guest speaker for the Ball. He commented that he has always been impressed with the professionalism of the Seabees, having served alongside them in Iraq and other places.
"The Marine Corps' motto is Semper Fidelis, which means 'Always Faithful,' to our God, Country and Corps. This strong sense of commitment to one's mission and to each other is just as powerful amongst you. I've seen it in my service with the Seabees in Somalia, Haiti and the Middle East. That's part of why I respect you as much as I do," said Bohm of the Seabees. "Your slogan is not quite right; it isn't 'can do,' it's 'will do!'"
Bohm recognized that time and time again, the Seabees responded to devastating natural disasters at home and abroad. "The list is endless, Hurricane Camille, Andrew, George, Mitch, Ivan and Katrina in our own back yards, as well as floods in Ethiopia, earthquakes in Haiti, the Tsunami in Indonesia and I could go on," claimed Bohm.
He closed his remarks with, "One thing is clear, when that time comes, and the balloon goes up again, I want to be fighting side-by-side with you, my brothers and sisters in arms. Together we can accomplish anything."
NAVFAC Southeast Commanding Officer Capt. Steve Hamer emphasized the rich heritage and history the guests were celebrating during the ball. He also offered his thanks to the NAVFAC/Seabee Ball committee, guests and contributors after the event for all the hard work and dedication it took to put it on.
More than 200 military and civilians attended the Ball this year. People traveled from all over the southeast U.S. to participate in the annual event.
This year the Ball focused on the humanitarian efforts provided by NAVFAC and the Seabees throughout the world.
For example, NAVFAC employees and the Seabees have been busy in Haiti since the devastating earthquake that struck there in January 2010. Resident Officer in Charge of Construction Haiti Seabees and civilians, alongside volunteers from the U.S. Embassy and former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn from Habitat for Humanity, joined forces to construct 150 "core" homes in Leogane, Haiti, a community about 20 miles west of Port au Prince. A core home is about 215 square feet and can house a family of five.
"Thanks to all of you who supported the NAVFAC/Seabee Ball this past weekend," said Hamer. "Whether you were on the Ball committee, attended the Ball or just supported a fundraiser, your participation enabled us to have a spectacular event to honor our heritage. Thanks again for everything you do!"