SAN DIEGO - “We Build, We Fight” has been the motto of the U. S. Navy’s Construction Force, known as the “Seabees,” for the past 75 years. A 2003 Morristown High School graduate and Morristown, New Jersey, native builds and fights around the world as a member of an amphibious construction battalion center located in San Diego, California.
Lt. Karen McAllister works as an alpha company commander assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion One (ACB 1). ACB 1 provides ship-to-shore transportation of combat cargo, bulk fuel and water, and tactical camp operations supporting Navy and Marine Corps amphibious force operations.
As an alpha company commander, McAllister is responsible for leading Seabees who are construction mechanics and operators for all battalion support equipment.
McAllister has carried lessons learned from her hometown into to her military service.
“I was very active in my church and we always went on mission trips in the summers to repair homes,” she said. “That approach to selfless service is what I've carried over with me to my time in uniform.”
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, according to Lara Godbille, director of the U. S. Navy Seabee Museum.
McAllister has military ties with family members who have previously served and is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“My dad served in the Air Force in Germany and my grandfather served in the Army but didn't get deployed,” she said. “When my grandfather was mobilized to go to Korea, he had a young family and volunteered, and having that example set for me can be carried over to many chapters in my life.”
For the past 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 following earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.
“I am proud of the hard work that Seabees do every day,” said Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg, commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command. “Their support to the Navy and Marine Corps mission is immeasurable, and we look forward to the next seven decades of service.”
Seabees around the world are taking part in a year-long celebration in 2017 to commemorate the group’s 75-year anniversary. The theme of the celebration is “Built on History, Constructing the Future.”
"The Seabees have built a legacy over these past 74 years," said Capt. Scott O. Cloyd, commanding officer of ACB 1. “I am proud of that tradition and of what our Seabees are doing everyday around the globe. I am privileged to serve with them again here at PHIBCB ONE; seeing their talents, teamwork, and dedication, I am proud and confident of their future and the heritage that Seabees continue to build today."
McAllister’s proudest accomplishment was in 2011, when she volunteered to go with the Army as an individual augmentee.
“Being able to directly apply my background education in architecture in the Navy, gave me the opportunity to do field assessments that helped build schools and communities throughout the world,” she added.
Serving in the U.S. Navy, has allowed McAllister to continue learning about the legacy for future Seabees.
“The Seabees have a long history of tradition,” said McAllister. “Being able to occupy anywhere in the world as a Seabee is a humbling experience.”
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