March 7, 2020

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Finley Jr.
Navy Office of Community Outreach

“We Build, We Fight” has been the motto of the U. S. Navy’s Construction Force, known as the “Seabees,” for more than seven decades. The Navy Seabees are an elite group of personnel trained in both combat and the craft skills of the construction industry.

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bradley Gee

Constructionman Zachary Sanders, a native of Greenwood, Missouri, builds and fights around the world as a member of naval construction battalion center located in Port Hueneme, California.

Sanders is serving as a Navy construction electrician, who is responsible for all the electric work required for construction projects.

“I am responsible for all the work an electrician would do in the civilian world,” Sanders said.

Building in austere environments can be a challenge. Fighting in harsh conditions can also be a challenge. Building in austere environments while fighting in harsh conditions takes a special kind of person with a great deal of perseverance and determination, according to officials with the U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command. These are the kinds of people being trained at Port Hueneme, to provide crucial support to Seabee units deployed around the world.

The jobs of some of the Seabees today have remained unchanged since World War II, when the Seabees paved the 10,000-mile road to victory for the allies in the Pacific and in Europe, said Lara Godbille, director of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum.

“The hardships we go through make us closer as a unit,” said Sanders. “I really enjoy the brotherhood.”

Seabees have served in all American conflicts for nearly 80 years. They have also supported humanitarian efforts using their construction skills to help communities around the world following earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Sanders is a 2014 Lee Summit West High School graduate. According to Sanders, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Greenwood.

“I was a framing carpenter before I joined the Navy,” said Sanders. “It taught me the value of hard work and doing the job right the first time.”

Port Hueneme is the West Coast homeport of the Navy’s Seabees. It’s one of five learning sites in the Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering domain. They train and develop sailors, soldiers, airman, and Marines in construction trades and military skills for Department of Defense operating forces to accomplish contingency and peacetime construction, chemical, biological, and radiological operations, and humanitarian assistance missions worldwide.

Port Hueneme and the men and women who serve there play a key role in the Navy’s broader mission of protecting American interests on the world’s oceans.

According to Navy officials, maintaining maritime superiority is a vital part of a Navy that is present today and prepared for tomorrow. The impact affects Americans and their interests around the world, as more than 70 percent of the Earth is covered by water and 90 percent of all trade travels by sea.

The foundation of the Navy the nation needs includes a focus on warfighting, warfighters and the future of the fighting force.

“I am confident that we will maximize the Navy we have today while delivering the Navy that our nation will rely upon tomorrow,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “We will do so with urgency. Our fleet will be a potent, formidable force that competes around the world every day, deterring those who would challenge us while reassuring our allies and partners.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Sanders is most proud of the humanitarian ribbon he received in Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands.

“The people were very happy that we were there,” Sanders said. “Just helping them out made me proud to be a Seabee.”

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Sanders, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Sanders is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“My stepfather retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years,” said Sanders. “It makes me proud to continue the tradition and hopefully one day my children will follow in my footsteps.”

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Sanders, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.

“It is a very proud group and I am happy to be a part of the Seabee legacy,” Sanders said.