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Ventura County

Open House Offers Salute to Seabees

Military: Naval base festivities give a glimpse into 60 years of work by construction battalions.

July 26, 2002|RODNEY BOSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Seabee Days kicks off Saturday with a full dress military parade, the procession will resonate with added purpose as Naval Base Ventura County observes the 60th anniversary of combat construction engineers.

The annual open house offers throngs of visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how the base operates. This year's lengthy list of attractions includes tours aboard two Navy destroyers, weapons exhibits, military displays, carnival rides, a motorcycle and classic car show, athletic competitions and a concert by the rock band Dishwalla at 2 p.m. Saturday.

But that's not all.

"Seabee Days is a great opportunity for the community to come out and see real-life examples of the types of construction the Seabees do," said Capt. Jim Cowell, commander of the 31st Naval Construction Regiment.

Seabee units, which date back to March 1942, sprang from the military's need for base construction and other support tasks in the Pacific.

Where did the moniker originate? Construction battalion was shortened to CBs, then Seabees.

The 1944 John Wayne movie "The Fighting Seabees" immortalized the Navy group, whose logo sports a bee carrying a machine gun, a monkey wrench and a hammer.

Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme is home to four construction battalions, each outfitted with more than 600 men and women. Three of the battalions are currently in Port Hueneme, while the 40th Naval Mobile Construction Battalion is now deployed in Guam. More than 800 Seabees will take part in Saturday's parade, which begins at 11 a.m.

Heightened security measures will be in place this year as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said base spokeswoman Sarah Burford. There will be random searches of vehicles entering the base. Coolers, backpacks, skateboards, bicycles, glass containers and pets will not be allowed.

Visitors will have to register for the free ship tours at the Seabee Days information booth, and those 16 and older must show a photo ID. The number of tours--on the destroyers Stethem and Decatur--will be limited this year and available only on first come, first served basis. Ship tours will be given from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Visitors can enter the base at the Patterson Road or Victoria Avenue gates, which will open at 9 a.m. each day. Admission and parking are free. Most events will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, call 982-6000 or visit www.ncbc.navfac.navy.mil/seabeedays2002.htm

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