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No Bounds: A Construction Mechanic in the Navy

Courtesy Story, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1

“Alright Swyers, hit it!”

Turning the ignition switch over after hours of troubleshooting, the starter whines and an engine roars to life. Unable to contain his excitement, the mechanic cheers after a week of attempts to revive the MK28 water truck prove fruitful.

The beast has finally shown signs of life; another win for a Seabee mechanic.

Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Luke Swyers, from Clarion, Pa., is assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 and currently deployed with a detachment of Seabees in Israel.

Swyers decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy after working as a roustabout for the oil and gas fields, searching for a way to better himself.

“The life I lived before was sporadic,” said Swyers. “My work schedule revolved entirely around the economy and the demand for oil and gas to be drilled. It was very much a feast or famine work environment. I wasn’t working or doing anything productive at all, and to me that’s time misspent.”

Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Luke Swyers, from Clarion, Pa., and assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, inspects the oil dipstick of a CAT 420 backhoe during construction operations, Dec. 28. (U.S. Navy photo by Utilitiesman 2nd Class Mason Rumble)

Being the third generation of his family to serve in the U.S. military, he follows the proud lineage of his two grandfathers, his father, uncle and older brother.

“It only felt right to do,” said Swyers. “Many people my age are very critical of our nation but don’t realize how lucky they were just to be born a citizen of the U.S. This country has given me everything, and I wanted to give something back to her.”

One of the most surprising aspects about the Navy for him was the incredible amount of diversity amongst his peers.

“I’m from a small town and I never dreamed that I’d leave,” said Swyers. “To get out and meet others from all over the world, hear their stories and learn about their background, was eye-opening. It is one of the many blessings this life has given me.”

In Israel, Swyers works in an outdoor mechanic shop where he is responsible for repairing and maintaining nine pieces of construction equipment vital to completing construction efforts.

“Pretty much I’m responsible for repairing anything that breaks on construction equipment,” said Swyers. “As the bread and butter of the Corps of Civil Engineers, this job requires me to do anything and everything regarding maintenance and repairs to keep us mission ready. If our equipment isn’t running, not much can get done. It seems like a lot, but almost everybody who joins the Seabees turns into a Jack-of-all-trades at some point.”

Of the many responsibilities taken on during his deployment, one of his favorite is operating the earth-moving equipment.

“I used to operate some equipment with my civilian job, and I still jump at any chance to climb into a piece of heavy machinery,” said Swyers. “I’m 24 and I still feel like a kid on Christmas morning when I get to spend a day operating something.”

Swyers often reflects on some of his happier moments serving in a construction battalion, such as operating with the Convoy Security Element (CSE).

“Last year in homeport I got picked up to drive and maintain the gun trucks for our CSE, which provided me some excellent training in some other areas of expeditionary warfare,” said Swyers.

While armored vehicles and machine guns are exciting, they were in fact not his favorite experience thus far.

“By and far, the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done is assisting the efforts for the Ali Oune project in Djibouti,” said Swyers. “I helped build a road for the construction crew and then did some work on the location with them to build a medical facility. It really is a wonderful feeling to be able to give something to people less fortunate than you are; people there barely have anything at all. I feel that to do something and assist people who have so little is one of the noblest things anybody can do and that’s the heart and soul of peacetime Seabees.”

Capt. Tim DeWitt, commander of the Civil Engineer Corps., Naval Construction Group Two, examines an incinerator during a site survey at a hospital construction site in Ali Oune, Djibouti, Oct. 25, 2018. The hospital in Ali Oune will bring medical care to the southwest region of the country. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Jackson)

 

Becoming successful requires positive leaders and mentors in life to guide oneself, especially in the military.

“One of the best mentors I have ever had is Chief Brickwood,” said Swyers. “I deployed with a unit less than a week after checking in. When I came back to Gulfport, I had a little bit of trouble acclimating. Chief Brickwood was incredibly helpful with not only pointing me in the right direction, but also keeping a very high standard for my work.”

Swyers’ dedication to bettering his country and himself is what keeps him going full-speed in the Seabees.

“Every single person has no bounds as long as they can make the most of the opportunities given to them,” said Swyers. “Not every situation is ideal, but it can almost always be improved. My advice for anyone joining the Navy, especially to be a Seabee, is to do your homework about what you want to do. When you lace those boots up and put on the uniform, you’re going to work and you’re here to do your country proud. Make the best of your time here and try to be the hardest working person in the room.”

To learn more about NMCB-1 Seabees and their impacts around the world, visit https://www.facebook.com/NMCB-ONE-The-First-and-The-Finest-124282507598400/


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