What challenges do the Seabees
have in maintaining readiness?
SAUM: We don’t necessarily look at them as challenges;
we look at them as opportunities to improve how we
support the fleet. The fleet design has come out, and
what we’re always looking to do is make sure, as part
of our readiness, we can be where we’re needed, when
we’re needed, with the right skills to really enable that
maneuver, the distribution, the integration of the fleet in
a contingency. Our role, specifically as Seabees, is to do
that through advanced naval bases.
From a readiness perspective, we focus on the Pacific,
especially here on the West Coast. The Seabees spent a
long time in Southwest Asia and the work that we’ve
done for a decade-plus in Southwest Asia is different than
what we anticipate we’d have to do in the Western Pacific.
We need to make sure we’ve adapted that mindset,
that warrior ethos we’ve developed here recently and
apply that to a new problem set. To really get down to the
specifics, we are always looking for work that gets after
the capabilities we know we will need in that contingency.
What are some examples of the most challenging
assignments that the Seabees have taken on?
SAUM: Obviously, what the Seabees did in World War
II is phenomenal. As you move through the last 75
years, things like [Naval Air Station] Cubi Point in the
Philippines, which was a huge, huge construction effort.
They literally moved mountains to build that base. At
Diego Garcia, years of effort by multiple battalions was
spent to extend the runway there and make that a viable base. Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica has been
a yearly challenge. The underwater construction teams
have built the Tektite Lab in Undersea Development. For
us, the challenge is always being in austere environments.
With Seabees, we need our equipment to build, the
people to have the skill sets and the material needs to
be there, and in some of the places we go that logistics
infrastructure is not there. It creates that challenge or
opportunity for us. The process of figuring out how to
crack that logistics nut is value added for us because
we know we have to be able to do that to ensure what’s
needed, where it’s needed and when it’s needed.
What are some of the unusual assignments
Seabees have taken on?
SAUM: We Seabees talk about “we build and we fight.”
I won’t say it’s unusual, but something that we defi-
nitely want people to know is the humanitarian aspect
of what Seabees bring to the table. Wherever we are in
the world, if you see Sailors with that Seabee on their
uniform, you’re in good hands. We’re there for hurricane
recovery, typhoon recovery, earthquakes, any sort of
humanitarian assistance or disaster recovery operations.
When we’re called, we’re there and we really do
some phenomenal things. With compassion for others,
we build, we fight. That is part of our Seabee motto.
We do Pacific Partnership [humanitarian projects].
In fact, in a recent year, 30th Naval Construction Regi-
ment led Pacific Partnership from the NECC standpoint.
We have folks all over the place, in some places many
folks don’t even know exist and, certainly, will never
go to: Cambodia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Timor-Leste — it goes on and on.
Whether it’s theater security cooperation, partnering with other militaries or just helping out the local
community, our folks are all over the place. Of course,
Seabees are supporting various forces in Southwest
Asia and in Africa.
How do your Reserve battalions contribute
to the mission of the active-duty force?
SAUM: We could not have done as well as we did and
supported the fleet, the Marines and the Army if we
didn’t have our Reserve force. They are absolutely a
huge part of what we do with the expertise they bring.
We have folks in the Reserve battalions who are master electricians and carpenters on the outside. They
make their living by doing the trades that we need. The
depth of skill that the Reserves bring, and some of the
larger engineering projects that they do, greatly contribute to what we do in the Seabees overall.
How would you characterize the
importance of the work Seabees do
for the Navy and the nation?
SAUM: We are leveraging that 75-year legacy to execute today and prepare to build and fight for tomorrow,
to enable the fleet and the Marine Corps to fight the
nation’s wars. n
Saum shares a laugh with Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Miranda
Temple, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, during an air-
field damage repair course at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif., Aug. 17.