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Area Seabee wins high honor in Navy

A Navy Seabee from Brevard recently received a top honor for exceptional leadership of a team in the Philippines..

Builder 1st Class Patrick Smith, of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, received the 2014 Marvin Shields Award from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Commander and Chief of Civil Engineers Rear Adm. Kate Gregory, March 13. He won the award for providing exceptional leadership to an integrated team of 32 Seabees and host nation engineers, and excellence in volunteerism during his recent deployment to the Philippines. The award is presented in recognition of the Seabee who has made extraordinary contributions to the mission of the Naval Construction Force and who has upheld the highest traditions and legacy of the U.S. Navy Seabees over the last year.

"I am honored that the command nominated me for the award," said Smith. "It is a great honor to receive an award named for Marvin Shields. To be compared to his legacy is humbling."

Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields was a 26-year-old Seabee serving in Vietnam with NMCB 11 in 1965. Shields's unit, along with Army Special Forces and South Vietnam Defense personnel, came under attack by 2,000 Viet Cong and, although greatly outnumbered, withstood intense close-range combat for almost three hours. Shields and an Army lieutenant volunteered to man a rocket launcher, destroying an enemy machine gun position. Despite repeatedly being hit, Shields fought on until he was mortally wounded; he died the following day while being evacuated by helicopter. For these heroic actions that cost him his life, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor – becoming the first (and so far only) Seabee to receive the nation's highest award, and also the first Navy man to be so decorated for action in Vietnam.

Smith joined The "First and The Finest" in 2013 and has served in many capacities for the battalion. During NMCB 1's 2014 deployment, he was the Construction Civic Activity Detail (CCAD) Philippines leading petty officer and quality control petty officer.

"To the junior Seabees, I'd like to say that you don't have to always be the best at what you do, but you have to always work hard, always improve and give an honest effort," said Smith.

An 11-year Navy veteran, Smith was inspired to join the Navy by his family.

"My stepfather motivated me to join because he owned a construction company and worked with the Seabees often," said Smith. "He knew about their heritage and 'can do' spirit, which lit the fire in me to join the Seabees and continue our family's legacy of serving our country," he said.

NMCB 1 Command Master Chief Mike Lopez said that Smith is a model Sailor within the command whose characteristics are for others to emulate.

"BU1 Smith's selection for this award says a lot about his leadership and the value he sees in his Seabees," said Lopez. "He is a humble professional who would be the first to place the credit elsewhere. I am proud of him and proud to serve with such an outstanding Seabee."

Gregory said that Smith's impressive performance and professional achievements merit the recognition afforded by this prestigious award.

"The nominees for this year's award represent the strength, determination, and stalwart leadership of our force," Gregory said in her message announcing the award recipient to fleet. "Petty Officer Smith exemplifies the Seabee 'Can Do' spirit, for which Marvin Shields serves as the ultimate example."

NMCB 1 is a Seabee battalion specializing in contingency construction, disaster response, and humanitarian assistance. The Battalion is homeported in Gulfport, Miss.