MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
“Be careful where you sit,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Stowe, a builder with facilities. “There are tools everywhere.”
Everything from wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, saws, jackhammers and pipe threaders are scattered throughout the facilities building and workplace.
Navy Seabees were founded following Pearl Harbor in answer to a crucial demand for builders who could fight.
The Seabees in the Facilities Department are responsible for minor and major construction, maintenance and repair.
“We do everything from fixing broken cupboard doors to the construction and renovations of buildings,” said Stowe.
The facilities shop consists of only four Seabees altogether, two of which are females.
Because there are so few of them, they each have to sit a week-long duty, answering and responding to all “emergency” calls.
“We get some of the most ridiculous calls,” said Stowe. “People will call us at like 2:30 in the morning just to tell us that the fan above their stove doesn’t work. That is not an emergency. Things like a water heater exploding, floods, having to snake a toilet or an entire sewer line … those are emergencies.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Emilie A. Bates, one of the two female builders with facilities, doesn’t have a problem getting her hands dirty.
“A lot of guys get embarrassed when I’m the one who shows up to snake their toilet,” said Bates. “They think that I’m just the person to answer the phone. They don’t realize that the person answering the phone is the one on duty taking care of all the trouble calls.”
Not only do the Seabees take care of all construction, but they are also responsible for typhoon readiness on the station as well.
“While families are locked up inside their houses, we’re the ones out in the winds, making sure that stuff isn’t getting too destroyed,” said Stowe. “We strap everything down with netting; we use rope to secure as much as possible to prevent further damage. After the typhoon passes, we go around and do building assessments: what’s destroyed, what damage had been done, what’s it going to cost to fix, how long is it going to take to fix?”
Along with construction and typhoon readiness, the Seabees, along with other facilities personnel also respond to any calls regarding spiders, especially black widows.
“I am the spider guy,” said Stowe. “I go and catch spiders when they’re called in and then we save them to keep track of how many spiders are found per year.”
Without the Seabees and other facilities personnel, with their building, typhoon readiness and spider catching skills, this base could not operate.
No one would be there to wake up in the middle of the night to answer those trouble calls and handle the emergency at hand. For trouble calls, base personnel may call 253-4242 for assistance.