By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joe Bishop, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West
The Seabees are a “can do” people. They can fight, they can build, and they can do it anywhere. But if there is one thing a Seabee needs more than anything, it is work. Without getting their hands dirty, Seabees cannot train. Only through practice can Seabees learn to work together and hone their individual skills. Seabees are made for work, and the more work they get, the better they become.
“We want to let Fleet Navy know that we’re still here and doing good things.” said Builder 1st Class Edward Pygott, operations manager, assigned to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303. “So admirals in a funding committee, someday, will say ‘Seabees? What’s the impact of that? I know what the impact is because ten years ago they did CNIC [Commander, Navy Installations Command] projects.’”
CBMU 303 is currently working on two CNIC projects in San Diego. One is the construction of a restroom and changing facility at Heritage Park on the Coronado beach adjacent to the Navy Lodge.
The facility is a 630-square-foot octagon concrete masonry unit restroom with shower and changing areas for men and women. The project complies with the American Disabilities Act, which accommodates visitors with disabilities. The other project is a security wall behind the Navy Exchange near Naval Base San Diego. Surplus merchandise can now be safely stored behind the building. These projects hone a wide range of the collective skillset of CBMU 303.
“If you’re the commander of an installation there will be a call for work basically saying, ‘Hey who needs work done?’ and everybody will put projects on a list”, said Pygott. “We look at them and see what [projects] have the best training value, which projects can incorporate the majority of our CB rates. So this one we need builders, steelworkers, electricians, plumbers, it incorporates all of them. So this was a great project for us.”
Projects like these provide Seabees on shore duty with training opportunities in a variety of construction skills. Funding for these jobs hones their skills and prepares them for future field assignments.
“Being Seabees, we specialize in construction to complete the Navy’s mission,” said Engineering Aide 1st Class Randy Felipe. “So when we use all these contractors we lose out on potential skills and knowledge [that we could develop]. A Marine needs to practice, practice, practice, so when he hits the ground he doesn’t need someone to tell him what to do, it’s automatic. So that’s exactly what we’re trying to do, too, with these projects.”
CMBU 303 is a collective of organized and capable workers that can build pretty much anything. The key to its strength is in the organization of work and skills. And its collective genius offers each Seabee experience and knowledge from related rates.
“Teamwork is critical and when we go into planning a project we try to plan in a sense that each trade is looking out for the next,” said Pygott. “We don’t subcontract, so the crew is comprised of all the rates. If you’re an electrician and you’re on this project, you may be placing concrete, or you may be putting in a toilet because your phase of construction may not be up yet, or you may be complete with it, but you’re still part of the crew.”
The Seabees of CMBU 303 know that their capabilities come from applying their skills and interacting with their fellow Seabees. So it’s reassuring to know that they have future work that will continue their development.
“As far as future projects we have two lined up for next year already, which is good news”, said Pygott. “One of them is the beach lane markers down on Silver Strand. They’re rusting out, so we’re going to replace those. And we’re going to renovate the front and the bathroom of the Admiral Baker driving range.”
CBMU 303 is a powerful productive force. Their strength comes from being a rigorously trained and cooperative group of Sailors. Seabees can build whatever, whenever, with quality and speed. Great builders need projects like the restroom in Heritage Park or the wall behind the Navy Exchange to maintain their hard-earned abilities.
“As Seabees we’re good at what we do and were not just good at one thing, we can do pretty much everything,” Builder 2nd Class Jason Carnicle, crew supervisor at the Navy Exchange site. “We’re trained to build whatever is needed, we’re trained to fight, and we’re always ready to go.”