Navy officer Jamie McKelvie, of Steamboat Springs, poses with youngsters in Papua, New Guinea, in the midst of a Pacific Partnership Mission. McKelvie and his colleagues helped build two medical aid stations, among other projects.

Courtesy photo

Navy officer Jamie McKelvie, of Steamboat Springs, poses with youngsters in Papua, New Guinea, in the midst of a Pacific Partnership Mission. McKelvie and his colleagues helped build two medical aid stations, among other projects.

Steamboat grad to be Seabee

Lieutenant junior grade to join Naval Construction Force



Navy officer Jamie McKelvie.

— Lieutenant Junior Grade James "Jamie" McKelvie collected his first paycheck from the Navy while still a junior in the engineering school at Colorado State University. Then, he spent the first three years of his enlistment in Hawaii without ever shipping out to sea.

On his days off, he even became a certified scuba diver.

But at the office, he was given responsibility for 20 construction projects with an aggregate value of $25 million.

"I was managing all the Navy construction projects at Pearl Harbor, and I was right out of college with zero experience," McKelvie said.

McKelvie, who graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2001, now is ready to embark on the next chapter in his Navy career.

Next week, he'll end a holiday visit with family in Steamboat and leave for Port Hueneme, Calif., north of Los Angeles, to begin adapting to a new role as a platoon commander with First Platoon, Bravo Company Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3.

McKelvie is going to become an officer in the Seabees, the name for the Naval Construction Force.

Seabees pride themselves on being able to support combat operations with a variety of construction projects from landing strips to base facilities, and they are prepared to fight when called upon.

McKelvie expects his platoon to begin an 18-month deployment in August, but it's far too soon to know where they are going.

Campus commitment

The notion of joining the Navy first occurred to McKelvie while he still was a freshman at CSU. A recruiter visited the engineering school and described a special program that allowed top students to draw a Navy paycheck while still in school, in exchange for a four-year commitment to the service.

By the time he was a junior in college, McKelvie was ready to take his oath and commit to joining the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps upon graduating with a degree in civil engineering.

In addition to the construction projects he oversaw at Pearl Harbor as an ensign during his first three years in the Navy, McKelvie had the opportunity to go on a special humanitarian mission.

He was selected to be the embedded engineer on a Pacific Partnership Mission that involved the floating hospital ship USNS Mercy, along with personnel from the Indian Army and the Australian Royal Army.

McKelvie's role was to fly to Papua, New Guinea, and make preparations for the Naval construction force that was on its way.

When he arrived, McKelvie found out that things are done differently in New Guinea than they are on a Navy base in Hawaii. Not only had his contractor not delivered the heavy timbers that were required, lumber yards in New Guinea did not stock them. He finally located a custom sawmill that would cut them from large logs.

"You know all about Steamboat time. Well Papua, New Guinea, time is 10 times more nonchalant," McKelvie said. "It's not conducive to a high-tempo military operation."

Nevertheless, McKelvie made sure the hundreds of pieces of building materials the construction crews needed were ready and waiting for them.

"We renovated a 400-square foot building that had no electricity and no plumbing," McKelvie said. "We added large water tanks, solar heating, toilets and showers. It was very stressful and difficult to accomplish. But once we did it, it was well worth it, feeling the appreciation of the people and knowing they'll have the use of those facilities for decades to come."

Lt. j.g. McKelvie is on to a new challenge, and it's one he relishes as he decides whether to make a permanent career of the Navy.

"It's going to be a drastic change," McKelvie said. "I'll take on a leadership role. I really wanted to be sure I had this experience - to experience what it is to be a Seabee."


aichempty 8 years, 3 months ago

Okay, Tom. Nice job for somebody who really doesn't know what he's writing about.

The term "Seabee" comes from "C B" or "Construction Batallion." LTJG McKelvie was a "Seabee" when he pinned on the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) collar device.

The Navy has several special purpose corps, including the JAG Corps, Supply Corps, Medical Corps, and Civil Engineer Corps. If you look at the collar devices of the Navy officers, you will find that a "line" officer wears two rank insignia (one on each collar point) while the "restricted line" officers wear a rank insignia on one collar point, and a corps device on the other. On the dress blues, unrestricted line officers wear a star above their stripes, while members of the other corps wear their own corps device.

Unrestricted line officers are eligible for command at sea. That means they can command a ship. While most officers who command ships are members of the "Surface Line" community, those who command submarines are specially qualified for submarine duty, and those who command aviation ships (aircraft carriers and helicopter assault ships) are pilots. Aviators may also command squadrons which are embarked in ships.

Restricted line officers may command units of their own corps. This is the type of command that LTJG McKelvie is getting ready to join, and he'll be working for a Commander or Captain of the CEC.

In the peckin' order of the Navy, officers of the Civil Engineering Corps are generally revered as people with special skills and intelligence, because these traits are required to do the job. LTJG McKelvie is in VERY good company, and his career field is very competitive. He deserves the praise you've heaped on him, and he should be an object of respect and someone to be emulated by our kids. His next assignment may very possibly be to a top-10 civilian engineering school to obtain a Master's degree in civil engineering at government expense while drawing his full pay and benefits. This is how the Navy rewards top performers and invests in people who have proven themselves.

And for those who believe certain myths about the military:

His medical care is not free. Military members now pay medical insurance premiums for the care of their dependents.

His housing is not free. He receives an "allowance" for housing as part of his pay, and when he is housed in military facilities he forfeits that allowance.

His food is not free. Officers pay for their own food, even when aboard ship, and even when deployed.

This young man has proved he is smart and hard-working. Thanks for printing an article about somebody we can admire.


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