By Cmdr. Joe Greeson, CEC, USN
Chief Staff Officer, 25th Naval Construction Regiment
“With compassion for others, we build, we fight, for peace with freedom.”
It is a motto that is woven into the very fabric of every Seabee since March 5, 1942. It is a motto which gives people around the world much more than buildings, water wells and fresh water – it gives them hope.
It is this “compassion for others” which is the driving force of more than 70 years of humanitarian assistance delivered by Seabees worldwide.
Back in the summer of 1999, Seabees staged at Camp Wedge took on the mission of widening the mountain roads and paths between Kosovo and Albania, making them safe for travel by refugees fleeing the war-torn nation. During the mission, Seabees came upon a small town and its damaged schoolhouse. The school’s walls were crumbling. The roof had holes in it. The bathroom was inoperable and unsanitary, with large truck tires replacing toilets. The Seabees continued their road improvement mission, but not before diverting a small construction team to fix the roof, the walls and give the school running water. It wasn’t their mission, but it had to be done. When you’re a Seabee, CAN DO is never inconvenient.
In 2010, Seabees were in Haiti, repairing roads and ports and clearing debris following the most devastating earthquake in that country’s history. At the same time, Seabees were in the Republic of the Philippines building Lanao Agricultural College in Lumbatan barangay, Lanao Del Sur. The project turned a previously condemned area into a school providing a college education to more than 800 students. During six months of construction, the Seabees lived on site, working extensively with locals and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to make the project a success.
Early in March of this year, Seabees traveled to Africa to meet with Ugandan military engineers. They shared their disaster response plans in exchange for best practices in dealing with emergency crisis management. There were not any brick and mortar construction projects during this visit. Instead, the Seabees built a partnership between nations. After all, the Seabees were known through the world as the global force for good long before it became a slogan. Finding hope, building dreams in the midst of overwhelming chaos is what CAN DO is all about.
Compassion has been the building block of the Seabees since birth. The Navy’s Maritime Strategy states, “Human suffering moves us to act, and the expeditionary character of maritime forces uniquely positions them to provide assistance.”
Seabees historically have swarmed to these kinds of missions where they empower people who want peace with freedom, people who want hope.
The Navy’s newest motto is “A Global Force for Good,” but it also happens to be the oldest – for Seabees.
CAN DO. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.