Laplace Native Exemplifies “We Build, We Fight” Legacy of U.S. Navy Seabees

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 24, 2019

GULFPORT, Ms. – “We Build, We Fight” has been the motto of the U. S. Navy’s Construction Force, known as the “Seabees,” for more than 75 years. Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael McClung, a 2004 St. Charles Catholic High School graduate and native of LaPlace, builds and fights around the world as a member of naval construction battalion center located in Gulfport, Mississippi.

McClung is serving as a Navy culinary specialist, responsible for cooking food for the base.

He credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Laplace.

“I learned a lot from being a Boy Scout,” said McClung. “Owning up to your mistakes and learning from them will help you get far.”

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. These are the kinds of people serving here at Gulfport, the home of the Atlantic Fleet Seabees. These are the people who provide crucial support to Seabee units deployed around the world.

The jobs of many of today’s Seabees 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, according to Lara Godbille, director of the U. S. Navy Seabee Museum.

For more than 75 years, Seabees have served in all American conflicts. They have also supported humanitarian efforts using their construction skills to help communities around the world. They aid following earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

McClung is playing an important part in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

A key element of the Navy the Nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, McClung is most proud of earning his Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin.

“The pin shows that I put in the work of learning the basic functions of the ship, naval heritage, firefighting and emergency preparedness,” said McClung. “It took a lot of effort and studying.”

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

“My grandfather was a Marine, my great uncle was a medical officer on the Simon Bulivar, my dad served on the USNS Comfort and many other family members served,” said McClung.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, McClung and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

“To me, the Navy is family,” said McClung. “No matter how bad things might get, there are always people you can reach out to. Being in the Navy means being a part of something greater than myself.”

By Heidi Cheek, Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class, Navy Office of Community Outreach