Navy decommissions Battalion 40


From Ventura County Star: Navy bids farewell to Battalion 40

The men and women of Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 40 stood together at attention for the last time on Wednesday. They gave a final cry — “Hooyah! Forty!” — and went their separate ways, joining other Seabee battalions lined up on both sides of the Forty.

The Seabees have known for a year that this day was coming, but the moment the battalion was actually decommissioned was still emotional, said Dillon Francis, a Thousand Oaks native who joined Battalion 40 in 2010.

“I’ve enjoyed my time in the Forty a lot,” said Francis, who is transferring to Battalion 4, also based at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme. “I gained rank here and I made a lot of friends. It’s nice to see a lot of my friends coming with me, but it’s tough to see a lot of people go someplace else.”

On Wednesday, the last members of the battalion — known as “the Forty” or “the Fighting Forty” — were honored with an official decommissioning ceremony at the Port Hueneme base. Friends and families of the Seabees, along with Navy veterans and many of the past commanders of Battalion 40, gathered to say farewell. A light rain fell, appropriate for a battalion that was formed to help take South Pacific islands from Japan.

Rear Adm. Christopher Mossey, commander of Naval Facilities Engineering and a former officer with Battalion 40, addressed the crowd before giving the final decommissioning order.

“To all of us, the Forty represents the bonds we have developed,” he said. “Your accomplishments will endure, and the friends that you have made, you’ll share a connection with for the rest of your lives.”

Mossey explained that the Navy routinely decommissions units when conflicts are winding down, as are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He predicted the Forty could return to duty someday, just as it was brought back into service in 1966 after being decommissioned after World War II.

“The need for engineering forces is not going away,” Mossey said. “The United States has been involved in many conflicts since World War II, and in every one of those conflicts, there has been a tremendous need for Seabees.”

But the men and women who lined up with the Forty on Wednesday won’t be doing so again. There were 581 people in the battalion last year, when it was marked for decommissioning. Since then, the ranks have shrunk to about 200, as people began to move to other units or leave the Navy. The battalion returned in July from its last deployment in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

“Decommissioning a Seabee unit isn’t like decommissioning a ship,” Cmdr. Tim DeWitt, Battalion 40’s last commanding officer, said in his remarks. “The Forty doesn’t have any permanent equipment or weapons of its own. We’re just Seabees, mostly young men and women who have volunteered to serve their country. There will be nothing left to rust, only priceless memories of courage and service.”

DeWitt led the battalion through an assignment in Afghanistan in 2010, where the Seabees built roads and bases for the U.S. military and schools and water wells for the Afghans. The group formed a special bond on that trip, he said, one in which Seabees worked under dangerous conditions and all came home unharmed.

“You will undoubtedly, forever be the highlight of my career,” DeWitt said.

By: Tony Biasotti

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