Tomball Native Exemplifies “We Build, We Fight” Legacy of U.S. Navy Seabees

By: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Heidi Cheek, Navy Office of Community Outreach
| Published 08/21/2019


GULFPORT, MS. – “We Build, We Fight” has been the motto of the U. S. Navy’s Construction Force, known as the “Seabees,” for more than 75 years. Lt. Cmdr. Russell Torgesen, a 1998 Tomball High School graduate and native of Tomball, Texas, builds and fights around the world as a member of naval construction battalion center located in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Torgesen is serving as the executive officer for Naval Construction Training Center, responsible for directing and managing the departments to meet the mission of training sailors, soldiers and airmen.

Torgesen credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Tomball.

“I learned the value of hard work and persistence while growing up and have tried to always apply those principles in the various jobs I’ve had while in the Navy,” said Torgesen.

Building in austere environments can be a challenge. Fighting in harsh conditions can also be a challenge. Building in austere environments while fighting in harsh conditions takes a special kind of person with a great deal of perseverance and determination. These are the kinds of people serving here at Gulfport, the home of the Atlantic Fleet Seabees. These are the people who provide crucial support to Seabee units deployed around the world.

The jobs of many of today’s Seabees 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 more than 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 aid following earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Torgesen is playing an important part in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

A key element of the Navy the Nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Torgesen is most proud of being recognized as the NAVFAC Marianas Military Engineer of the Year while stationed on Guam.

“While I was the one that received the recognition, it truly was a reflection of the excellent work that the construction and engineering team at Andersen Air Force Base collectively put forth to support the mission,” said Torgesen.

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Torgesen, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Torgesen is honored to carry on that family tradition.

“My paternal grandfather served in the Marines and that was a big part of who he was,” said Torgesen. “As a young child, I knew how important it was to him and as I got older I developed a desire to serve in the military as well.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Torgesen and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in the Navy,” added Torgesen. “I consider it a privilege to be in the Navy and I enjoy the opportunity to be an engineer.”

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