GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Wednesday morning, the 10,000 or so at the Naval Construction Training Center witnessed a change of command as outgoing Seabee commander Anna Franco transferred the flag to incoming Commander Russell Bates.
Franco leaves after two years of honorable service. Under her command, more than 16,000 Navy, Army and Air Force students learned a variety of construction and engineering disciplines.
"The Coast welcomed us with open arms: myself, my husband, my kids, and it's just been awesome," Franco said. "There's just so much to do here on the Coast."
She added that she and others have made the adjustments to the center being a multi-service training ground.
"You know, in the military, over the years, we've realized that it's better to do things together in a joint environment," Franco added. "I've operated my career in a joint environment. It was no surprise when I got down here and saw that we were training Navy Seabee's alongside Army and Air Force engineers, and it really helps to better understand each other."
Now, incoming Commander, Russell Bates takes over at the Seabee Base, continuing his 30 plus years of service in the military. He says character and competency are two mainstays to his command philosophy.
"We are the Second Command to put hands-on training with a sailor right out of boot camp," Bates said. "So, while they've been working on character at boot camp, when they come to us we continue to refine the character piece. But we really focus on the competency."