Santa Barbara sailor serves in 75-year Seabee tradition

By Lt. Lorna Mae Devera

Navy Office of Community Outreach

Photo by Specialist 1st Class Tom Gagnier
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Steffany Zapata, a 2010 graduate of San Marcos High School, builds and fights around the world.

“We Build, We Fight” has been the motto of the U. S. Navy’s Construction Force, known as the “Seabees,” for the past 75 years.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Steffany Zapata, a Santa Barbara native and 2010 San Marcos High School graduate, builds and fights around the world as a member of a naval construction battalion center in Gulfport, Miss.

Zapata is trained as a utilitiesman but also serves as a master-at-arms and in other roles.

“While attending college at Santa Barbara City College I learned just how important diversity is in the real world,”  Zapata said. “In the Navy I serve beside younger and older people who work together.  It has given me insight to different styles of how to learn and working together to be successful.”

Some of the Seabees’ jobs have remained unchanged since World War II, when the Seabees paved the 10,000-mile road to victory for the allies in the Pacific and in Europe, according to Lara Godbille, director of the U. S. Navy Seabee Museum.

For the past 75 years Seabees have served in all American conflicts. They have also supported humanitarian efforts using their construction skills to help communities around the world.  They help after earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“I am proud of the hard work that Seabees do every day,” said Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg, commander of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. “Their support to the Navy and Marine Corps mission is immeasurable, and we look forward to the next seven decades of service.”

Seabees around the world are taking part in commemorating the group’s 75-year anniversary this year. The theme of the celebration is “Built on History, Constructing the Future.”

“In 2016, I had the opportunity to work with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Eleven command chaplain as his assistant,”  Zapata said. “Our mission was to provide religious services to deployed Seabees serving in smaller detachments in remote areas such as Cameroon, Africa.  That was really rewarding.”

“Serving in the Navy has given me independence allowing me to have my own identity and set a positive example for my younger cousins,” she added.