When Navy Lt. Joshua Lamb arrived in May to take charge of the Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering Navy Detachment Fort Leonard Wood, he noticed little had changed since he was last here years ago as an instructor: the paint on the walls was old, as were the pictures hanging in the halls. There were no signs to let people know where to go when they walked in the building.
It was not a welcoming place, he felt.
Something had to change to create a “sense of belonging” for both the staff and the trainees, and he came up with an idea which has since become a campaign for the entire detachment — change the landscape, change the mindset. To that end, a committee was formed out of the staff at the detachment, charged with updating and upgrading the facilities in the Navy’s area of responsibility on the installation. This includes Navy and Seabees-themed artwork and messaging on the walls.
“One of the things we are focused on here is changing the landscape to instill pride and professionalism within our walls, so you have that sense of belonging, something you want to be a part of,” he said. “That bleeds over into our trainees who come through here. We’re creating that warrior toughness, that resiliency in our 21st Century Sailors. By taking care of our house, taking care of our neighborhood, we’re showing we’re proud of what we are and what we belong to. It’s about accountability to your house.”
Lamb said he sees his Seabees as, “the ambassadors of the United States Navy on Fort Leonard Wood,” and he wants the surroundings to set an example and make a good impression — for the sister services who visit as well as the families attending graduations.
“With the pandemic, a lot of them weren’t able to attend their son’s or daughter’s graduation from boot camp, so this is the first time a lot of them are seeing the Navy — we are their introduction,” he said. “We’re taking that very, very seriously, to not only give that service member a sense of belonging, but their family as well. We’re capturing a lot of the Seabee history. We have, since 1942, all kinds of heritage that we are very proud of. When people walk these halls, we can say to them, ‘Here, see these walls. This is a family; this is a team.’”
Early on, Lamb brought his ideas to his senior enlisted Sailors to get their thoughts. Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Blas, an equipment operator instructor for the detachment, is one of the leads for the campaign. He created a series of posters highlighting the Navy Facilities Engineering and Seabee 12 character attributes: ethics, responsibility, prudence, agility, trustworthiness, justice, fortitude, magnanimity, loyalty, discipline, resilience and decisiveness. The plan is to highlight one each month — this month, his “fortitude” poster hangs in the detachment headquarters building.
Blas is on the third year of his second tour as an instructor here, and he said he hopes the improvements will help instill pride through a “ripple effect.”
“The building has a lot of old stuff; it hasn’t changed,” he said. “It affects the environment. Putting emphasis on pride and ownership in our building — updating pictures, adding signs — we’re creating a welcoming impression.”
In addition to the interior improvements, 38 students, staff and their families volunteered time last month to beautify the exteriors of their buildings. They painted, pulled weeds and landscaped.
The July 17 event was a huge success — building camaraderie and instilling pride — and Lamb indicated plans for more beautification events are in the works.
“I always say, ‘It’s not my detachment, it’s our detachment. Let’s own it,’” he said.
Most of the improvements are slated to be completed by Oct. 1, Lamb said.
“From that baseline, we’re going to maintain what we have,” he said. “We may improve upon it, but we’re never going backwards. The big push here is building toughness and resiliency, and that’s where the title of this campaign comes from. You change the landscape, you change the mindset.”