by Ryan Labadens, U.S. Navy Public Affairs
Sometimes the allure of joining the military for young men and women is the chance to go out and see the world. For many at some point or another in their careers, they find themselves back near the places where they grew up or lived for a good portion of their life. Such is the case for Cmdr. Weurielus Johnson, who took over as the new executive officer for the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, Mississippi, in June 2021.
Johnson grew up nearly three hours from the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Choctaw County, Alabama. In his youth, he developed a love for machines while working summers on his grandparents’ farm, learning how to fix tractors and operate other machinery needed to help run the farm.
Mostly they raised livestock and grew vegetables enough to feed their family, as well as to have enough for selling and bartering with others. He credits his time working on the farm machines with initiating his interest in engineering.
After graduating high school in 1993, he decided to enlist in the Navy, both for the chance to see the world and for the opportunity to further his engineering pursuits.
He started off as a nuclear power machinist mate aboard the USS Henry M. Jackson, SSBN-730 (Gold), a U.S. Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. Johnson said although he enlisted, it was always his intent to further his education and pursue a commission.
“That was another reason for joining the Navy – it gave me the opportunity to go to school,” said Johnson. “I had good sponsorship from my engineering officer aboard the USS Henry M. Jackson and was able to get over to the commissioning program and get commissioned in 2002.”
This path enabled him to obtain both his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Old Dominion University and then his Master of Science degree in Construction Engineering and Management from Leland Stanford Jr. University in 2013.
Johnson is also no stranger to the Seabees, having served with the Pacific Seabees in Port Hueneme as the operations officer for Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 and, for his first assignment in Gulfport, with the Atlantic Seabees from 2007 to 2008 as the assistant operations officer for NMCB 1.
It was during his time with NMCB 1 that he deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I really enjoyed getting to work with NMCB 1. I was pretty excited about that,” said Johnson, reminiscing about his deployment with a detachment of 52 Seabees from the battalion to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. “I pushed a lot of smaller dets out to the firebases [smaller, forward-deployed bases in country]… to provide them with some additional protection, such as perimeter fences and shelters, or other simple comforts and facilities, such as showers and latrines, just to make things a little easier on them out in the field.”
He also served in various other engineering and construction assignments stateside and in the Pacific, such as Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii, where he got to appreciate a lot of the Seabee’s history based on their involvement in that theater during World War II.
“I was in the Pacific for nearly 12 years, and to me the Pacific is almost the birthplace of the Seabees, where the bombing of Pearl Harbor ushering us into World War II almost precipitated the need for the Seabees, helping to realize us as a force and shape us into who we are today,” said Johnson.
Now that he’s back for his second tour in Gulfport, Johnson said he’s looking forward to fulfilling his role as the base’s executive officer, acting both to advise the base commander and execute his objectives onboard the Gulfport Navy base. He also stressed that he wants to be the kind of executive office that the command needs.
“’Needs’ and ‘wants’ don’t always align, but I want to be the kind of XO who can be trusted to do the best for the CO and the command, and who is known for a strong sense of honor – that’s what I want to bring to the organization to help accomplish our mission,” said Johnson.
One other thing Johnson is looking forward to about being back in Gulfport and the South is the food, especially Southern barbeque.
“I’m from Alabama originally, so being back in this area again is really a treat. I’ve traveled around quite a bit and have tried plenty of good food, but there’s a lot to be said about Southern cuisine,” said Johnson.