Seabees dedicate trio of new facilities

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Gulfport Seabee base is celebrating another round of new construction. Senator Roger Wicker and Congressman Gene Taylor joined military leaders for a trio of ribbon cuttings on Monday.

Ceremonial ribbons were cut for a new barracks facility, fire station expansion and new fitness center. It's part of a $320 million Katrina recovery project.

An expanded fire station was the first of three ribbons cut. Fire Chief Mark Hensen gave Senator Wicker and Congressman Taylor a tour of the new facilities.

The more than 5,000 square foot expansion adds new living quarters and truck bays.

"Everything that we need to not only take care of everything on this base, but support the community if we need to support the local community out here," Seabee commander, Captain Ed Brown said.

A new barracks building will give Navy students a comfortable place to live while they're learning.

The modern living quarters get a big thumbs-up from Senator Wicker.

"Better than I had at the frat house," said the smiling senator, as he toured the brand new rooms.

"It's a four story building. 328 beds. And I tell you, it's top of the line.  We have a classroom in there with enough space that they can do their indoctrination to command," Naval commander,  Stephanie Jones said.

When they're not studying, students can enjoy a workout at the new fitness center. The new facility cost around $22 million and is nearly 60,000 square feet.

"We no longer accept providing mediocre support to our people. We no longer accept giving them just enough so they can do their job," Capt. Brown said.

Congressman Taylor said the capital improvements should also help insulate the Seabee base from future base closures.

"One of the things they focus on are what are the buildings like? Are we going to have to spend a lot of money to keep that base, to modernize. So, obviously this is not only great for the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, coasties and Seabees that serve here, but it's going to be great for the future positioning of this base, should there ever be another round of base closure," the fourth district congressman said.

"We had some things that needed attention before Katrina," Sen. Wicker said, "Actually some of the buildings dated back to before World War II. And this was a good facility. Even then, the mission didn't suffer. But Katrina was an opportunity for us and there's no sense in not coming back and doing it 100 percent, first class."

The three buildings dedicated are just a portion of the $320 million in post-Katrina recovery projects on base. Several other facilities have already been finished, while others are still under construction.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.