by Rosalie Chang, US Navy Public Affairs
A well-seasoned and all too familiar character sits atop its pedestal, tattered and worn, watching over Seabee Lake on board Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport. Fortunately, for this “Fighting Bee” statue, the Sailors assigned to Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2 Maintenance Shop completed renovations to bring it back to life.
The iconic “Fighting Bee” insignia of the Seabees was designed by Frank Iafrate in 1942, before the Seabees name had become official. He created the bee because to him, it was “the busy worker, who doesn’t bother you unless you bother him. But provoked, the bee stings.”
Over a six-month period, the NCG 2 Steel Shop Supervisor, Steelworker 2nd Class (SCW) Darryl Dykstra, worked on the repairs by sanding, grinding and refabricating numerous portions of the bee. The biggest challenge he faced was the amount of rust.
“When dealing with metal, you cannot see how much rust is below the surface. You won’t know what the actual damage is until you start breaking into it and see that there is more rusted out than expected,” said Dykstra. “I would try to make a repair and it would go right though so I had to continuously keep tearing into more and more of the original piece.”
The project was a team effort within the maintenance unit as a whole. It required help from others in the shop from transportation to ordering parts and materials and performing some of the repairs, especially when it came to fabricating a completely new head.
“We built a brand new head to try and resemble the original,” said Dykstra. “We had to find a replacement for the Dixie cover, but we did use the eyes, nose and antenna from the original head.”
Dykstra said it was a welcomed project since it gave him an opportunity to gain more rating knowledge and get some hands on training.
“For me, this statue symbolizes who we are as a Seabee community so I wanted the final product to be as perfect as possible,” Dykstra explained. “We have to take ownership and pride in what we have. I can say that I am proud to know that the bee is going to sit at the lake and anyone who has access to the base will be able to see it.”
Gulfport is the East Coast homeport of the Navy’s Seabees and is one of five learning sites in the Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering domain. They train and develop Sailors, Soldiers, Airman and Marines in construction trades and military skills for Department of Defense operating forces to accomplish contingency and peacetime construction, chemical, biological, and radiological operations, and humanitarian assistance missions worldwide.