Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 held a change of command ceremony on board Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, June 4.
Cmdr. Jonathan Nieman was relieved by Cmdr. LaKeeva Gunderson as the commanding officer of NMCB-3 in a ceremony attended by military and civilian guests, and distinguished visitors.
Capt. Matthew Riethmiller, commodore of Naval Construction Group 1, served as the guest of honor and opened his remarks with anecdotes of his experience seeing leaders, many of whom were in attendance, making difficult decisions in the face of adversity where the status quo would seem easier and safer. He used these anecdotes to address the Seabees standing in attendance and told them the importance that each pay grade plays and that enabling decisive decision making at each level is key for current and future successes.
“I have a list of all of this battalion’s recent accomplishments and I don’t even have to list them all to tell you that it’s just a start,” said Riethmiller. “I can also tell you that it only gets harder, but we don’t have a choice. The next 100 years are at stake, and we’re going to be victorious. Those pilots and those ship drivers are going to be victorious. But they’re going to do it off the relationships you’ve forged and the infrastructure you’ve built. That is our legacy and it is our future.”
Nieman assumed command of NMCB-3 in May 2019 and successfully led the battalion in executing U.S. Pacific Fleet’s operational priorities. He led over 500 Seabees across the Indo-Pacific Region as the first Naval Construction Force unit to deploy in the new threat environment after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his leadership, NMCB-3 embraced new embarkation and communication models to complete a mostly non-face-to-face Relief in Place/Transfer of Authority to execute construction readiness operations and exercises, theater security cooperation engineering projects, innovative readiness training, and multiple joint interoperability exercises while maintaining a healthy and ready force.
“To the ambitious, proud, respectful, and ‘Better Than Best’ Seabees of NMCB-3, what a wild and crazy two years it has been,” said Nieman. “Your innovation, toughness, and technical abilities were motivating. At every opportunity to say ‘sorry, we can’t do that,’ you continued charging. You made both immediate and long term impacts on the Seabees’ ability to serve as Pacific Fleet’s stand-in force and driving what I believe to be the Seabees’ rising tide amidst a great power competition. I thank you for showing just how interconnected ship, shipmate, and self are to each other’s success or failure.”
Nieman praised the Seabees for their efforts in Papua New Guinea where they strengthened U.S. relationships and enabled construction on Lombrum Naval Base; rebuilt nearly three miles of road and a camp to support joint exercises in Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; built school houses and strengthened partnerships in Timor-Leste; completed joint engineering exercises in Palau; completed $8 million in projects at Navy and Marine Corps installations throughout the Indo-Pacific region, participated in exercises with Marine Corps and Air Force units, and enabled the U.S. Navy’s ability to dominate in the littorals.
In closing his remarks, Nieman thanked the Seabees for their impact on him and expressed his confidence in the battalion’s future.
“Since 2001 I have served our nation in uniform for the possibility to serve with, by, and for Seabees,” said Nieman. “Based on the grit and determination I have witnessed over the past two years, that position has only further solidified. I leave NMCB-3 knowing that you’re off to even greater achievements with my personal friend and former ‘THREE-BEE’ Cmdr. Gunderson at the helm. [Cmdr. Gunderson], I wish you well and can think of no better successor.”
The change of command was solidified by the passing of the battalion colors from Nieman to Gunderson, a tradition among NCF units.
After the passing of the colors, Gunderson addressed the nearly 600 Seabees for the first time as their commanding officer.
“I stand before you all deeply humbled by the trust and tremendous vote of confidence the Navy and Civil Engineer Corps has in me to lead these brave women and men of NMCB-3,” said Gunderson. “To the troops of NMCB-3: it is an honor and privilege to be able to return to this battalion now as your commanding officer.”
Gunderson voiced her excitement to come back to NMCB-3 and to lead a unit that she believes exceeds standards and leads from the front.
“No doubt we live the motto of ‘Better Than Best,’” said Gunderson. “We are all leaders from my most junior Seabee up to me, and I am not only confident, but thrilled to know that as a unit we will train hard, trust in each other, and thrive in all that we do. You have my personal commitment that I will bring my ‘A-game’ every day and know that I will expect the same of you. It won’t always be easy, but that’s okay, because I’ve been told before that hard is authorized. I will and I am excited to continue building on your successes for continued excellence supporting and protecting our great nation.”
Gunderson is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, and most recently served as Public Works Officer for Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va. Her previous tours include Assistant Resident Officer-in-Charge of Construction (ROICC), Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton; Company Commander, NMCB-3; ROICC Ivan, Pensacola, Fla.; Flag Aide, First Naval Construction Division; Engineer Operations Officer, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa; Production Officer, Public Works Department Yokosuka, Japan; Base Operations and Services Program Manager for Assistant Regional Engineer, Norfolk, Va.; Chief of Naval Operation’s Career Intermission Program participant; Executive Officer, NMCB-1; and Operations Officer for Marine Corps Installations, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic in Norfolk, Va.
One of the first battalions commissioned at the start of World War II, NMCB-3 has the ability to build and fight anywhere in the world as either a full battalion or as a group of autonomous detachments completing critical engineering and construction missions simultaneously.
NMCB-3 is home ported in Port Hueneme, California. Seabees are the expeditionary engineering and construction experts of the naval service. They provide task-tailored, adaptable and combat-ready engineering and construction forces that deploy to support Navy objectives globally.