By Sue Brink, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast Public Affairs
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- NAVFAC Southeast Seabees, civilian employees and guests gathered at the Omni Hotel in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, March 4, for a formal Ball to celebrate the 175th birthday of NAVFAC, the 150th birthday of the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), and most importantly, the 75th birthday of the Seabees.
"Thank you all for joining us for this fabulous Seabee Ball," said Garin. "It is an honor to share in tonight's festivities as we celebrate the rich heritage and history of the U.S. Navy Seabees, the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps, and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. I am honored by your presence."
Garin took time to recognize and welcome the retired military guests, the NAVFAC Southeast Executive Steering Group, the Seabees of Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202, and dedicated NAVFAC Southeast military and civilians along with the many friends and family members who were attending their first Seabee Ball.
"Happy birthday, NAVFAC and Seabees; hoorah!" shouted Garin before he introduced the guest speaker.
Retired Rear Adm. Douglas G. Morton, North Carolina State University associate vice chancellor for facilities and former NAVFAC Southeast commanding officer, was the guest speaker for the ball.
"The remarkable men and women who served before us set our organizational DNA," said Morton. "Our 'Can do,' our ingenuity, and our toughness are hallmarks of our predecessors. The three organizations we celebrate tonight -- NAVFAC (Bureau of Yards and Docks), the Civil Engineer Corps, and the Seabees -- are interdependent and serve our great Navy around the globe, keeping the lights on and critical systems functioning."
"Our Seabees today are still volunteering to serve in combat zones after 16 years of war -- our nations' longest," Morton continued. "And they and their families continue to make sacrifices for the freedom of all our citizens. I am grateful for their service."
More than 240 military and civilians attended the Seabee Ball this year. People traveled from all over the southeast U.S. to participate in the annual event.
Earlier in February, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson stressed the importance of the Seabees and their history in a message.
"On March 5, 2017, the U.S. Navy will proudly commemorate the 75th anniversary of our Fighting Seabees," said Richardson. "The Seabees were established in the dark days following the attack on Pearl Harbor to answer the crucial demand for builders that could fight. The Seabees have a longstanding tradition of support to the National Military Strategy through contingency construction since their establishment in 1942. The Seabees are a proud and dedicated force with proven warfighting competence and character."
NAVFAC Commander and Chief of Civil Engineers Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg echoed similar sentiments in a video message aired during the Ball.
"This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Seabees, a fighting group that I've been proud to be a part of for the past 32 years," said Muilenburg. "As you celebrate, remember you are part of a proud legacy that has played a major role in every significant military engagement since World War II."
"Whether it has been enabling the warfighter, providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, or building camps and taking care of facilities and equipment for special operations forces, you have taken care of the Navy and the Marine Corps business," Muilenburg continued. "To your families, I say thank you for your support that enables these brave men and women of the naval construction force to fulfill our mission. Continue to be extremely proud of the work you do every day. Happy anniversary, Seabees! Hoorah!"
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."
After a ceremonial cake cutting, which included the oldest (Reserve Cmdr. Andy Sager) and youngest (Construction Electrician Constructionman Angela Patton) active-duty Seabee, the oldest retiree (Capt. Joseph Leap), the host Capt. Garin and guest speaker Morton, the attendees enjoyed an evening of dancing and socializing.