GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Seabee base in Gulfport is home to almost 5,000 military personnel. That will change significantly during the next twelve months. Base Commander Capt. Rick Burgess will oversee the operation.
"The decommissioning of the unit is the first step. Eventually, some of those Seabees, or perhaps others, would end up separating from the Navy," Burgess said. "As you draw down your overall numbers, that is where the savings would come in."
Are those savings a good idea in times of war? The commander offered these thoughts.
"We're going to be part of the decisions that the national leadership make in terms of how much military we can afford. And we're going to salute smartly and carry those orders out. Those decisions are made far above my pay grade."
Fewer Seabees serving on the base also means a blow to the coast's bottom line.
"Certainly there are impacts to economic, how much economic impact we have on the region," Burgess said. "We'll have fewer people stationed here and that means fewer dollars through their hands and perhaps out to the economy locally here."
While the commander readily admits that overseeing this decommissioning is not going to be a fun job, he said he has one priority.
"My concern is that we take care of our Seabees, we take care of our troops. I want to see them be successful, professionally," Burgess said. "If the Navy decides we're going to get smaller, we're going to make sure those Seabees are looked after."
Even so, the commander knows the rank and file wonder about the future.
"I wouldn't say anybody was shocked by it, that I have observed. I think there is a natural level of concern, particularly by those affected. How this going to affect me? And what am I going to do next?"
NMCB 7 will be decommissioned no later than September 30, 2012. There is also a good chance the unit will be deployed overseas sometime between now and then.