NMCB-3 Seabee Receives 2020 Stethem Award

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Lopez, NMCB 3

Builder 1st Class Travis Klawonn, assigned to U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, was awarded the Steelworker 2nd Class Robert D. Stethem award during a ceremony, February 24.

Rear Adm. John Korka, right, commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command, presents the Steelworker 2nd Class Robert D. Stethem award to Builder 1st Class Travis Klawonn, assigned to U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3. The Steelworker 2nd Class Robert D. Stethem award is a moral based award given to those upholding the highest of the United States Navy’s core values and traditions. One recipient is chosen each year for the award which recognizes outstanding individual moral courage in support of the traditions of the Seabees while in the course of actual operations. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Lopez)

The award was presented by Rear Adm. John Korka, commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC), and Force Master Chief Delbert Terrell Jr., force master chief of NAVFAC, outside of NMCB-3’s headquarters with a small command party present.

The Steelworker 2nd Class Robert D. Stethem award is a moral based award given to those upholding the highest of the United States Navy’s core values and traditions. Robert D. Stethem was killed in 1985 by Hezbollah terrorists who hijacked a TWA flight during his return from an assignment in Greece with Underwater Construction Team 1. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and advanced to Master Chief Constructionman. One recipient is chosen each year for the award which recognizes outstanding individual moral courage in support of the traditions of the Seabees while in the course of actual operations.

“I think it’s a tremendous honor to be recognized with such a remarkable force such as Robert D. Stethem by receiving this award,” said Klawonn. “I think it’s a testament to the mentorship that I’ve received throughout my years in the Navy. I’ve had incredible leaders and mentors guide me and mold me, and I see this is a way for me to recognize them and to pay it forward to young Sailors coming up behind me. I’m glad that I can represent NMCB-3, and I’m very honored and appreciative of receiving this award.”

Klawonn received the award for his work as the operations leading petty officer and project supervisor for Detail Timor-Leste and assistant-officer-in-charge of exercises Fiji and Philippines in 2020. In Timor-Leste he led a crew of 20 Seabees and 11 Timor-Leste Defense Force engineers to construct two school houses, an airfield perimeter fence renovation, and worked alongside the Australian Defense Force on Exercise Hari’i Humatuk, all together valued at $2.6 million. His leadership helped strengthen interoperability and the U.S. & Timor-Leste relationship by providing Timorese people with access to critical learning facilities for continued education.

“When you look at the history of SW2 Robert Stethem on the day of that event in 1985, you see an individual who heroically did what it took to accomplish what he saw as the mission, and in his case that mission was to keep that plane grounded,” said Cmdr. Jonathan Nieman, commanding officer of NMCB-3. “BU1 Klawonn was fortunately not put in that same situation, but he’s faced many trials and tribulations over the last year and during his tour with NMCB-3, and every time he grins and bears it to make sure he does what’s necessary to execute the mission. At times that’s 100% operational and other times it’s 100% about taking care of the Seabees under his charge, and I think those are two big things that really make BU1 deserving of this award.”

Klawonn enlisted in the Navy in 2008 and has served as a member of the Presidential Ceremonial Guard and as a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school instructor. He deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and to the Philippines attached to Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines while assigned to NMCB-40. He supported exercises Cobra Gold and Balikatan while assigned to NMCB-5. While assigned to NMCB-3 he served as officer-in-charge of exercise Koa Moana; project supervisor for exercise Cobra Gold; assistant-officer-in-charge of Detail Chinhae, South Korea; and operations leading petty officer for Detail Timor-Leste.

NMCB-3 recently finished a deployment across the Indo-Pacific region conducting high-quality construction to support U.S. and partner nations to strengthen partnerships, deter aggression, and enable expeditionary logistics and naval power projection. The battalion stood ready to complete assigned tasking, support Humanitarian Aid/Disaster Relief and Major Combat Operations response throughout the area of responsibility.

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