Submitted by Navy Office of Community Outreach
Region – Thomas Shea, a Worcester, Mass. native and 1980 Saint John’s High School graduate, is serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve as it celebrates its 100th year protecting America.
Shea, a senior chief petty officer, is part of a unique group of Americans who serve their country in uniform part-time while also working full-time jobs outside of the military. Created in 1915, the Navy Reserve has played a major role in nearly every conflict the U.S. has been involved with during the past decade.
“I joined the Navy Reserve because I wanted to serve my country with pride and honor,” said Shea.
Shea’s current assignment is with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 27, based in Gulfport, Miss. Sailors attached to NMCB 27 and other similar units, nicknamed “Seabees,” specialize in building roads, bridges, airfields and other structures for the U.S. military in areas of conflict around the world.
“The thing I enjoy most about my job is building various projects. I also love being able to lead sailors up the right path in life,” said Shea.
Shea and the rest of NMCB 27 are part of the Navy’s construction force that has been around for more than 70 years. Seabees have built entire bases and bridges and bulldozed and paved thousands of miles of roadway and airstrips for the U.S. military all over the world, playing a vital role in every major conflict the U.S. has been involved with since World War II.
With nearly 600 personnel assigned to the battalion, jobs are highly varied and every job plays an important role in keeping the battalion ready to deploy around the world to defend America whenever and wherever they are needed.
Shea plays an essential role in the battalion as the senior enlisted advisor of a mobilization command, who oversees the management and well-being of the sailors within the command.
As a reservist, Shea is continually balancing both the expectations of working as a sailor and as a civilian.
“The quality and traits that you learn, such as time management, translates to great success in the civilian world,” said Shea.
“Being a reservist compliments my job on the outside world as a steelworker and the service to my country makes me a better all-around person,” said Shea.
Shea’s commanding officer, a reservist himself, said he is impressed every time the battalion meets to train throughout the year by the professionalism of his sailors.
“I am extremely proud to be a part of this this team, one of the best I’ve ever had the honor of serving with in my entire career in the United States Navy,” said Cmdr. Greg Schell, commanding officer of NMCB 27. “This Battalion is ready, willing, and able to deploy now to defend freedom and our way of life, anywhere around the world.”
The Reserve is a major component of the Navy representing about 20 percent of its total forces. Congress authorized the establishment of the Federal Naval Reserve on March 3, 1915. Initially, the only sailors eligible to enroll were enlisted Navy veterans. On Aug. 29, 1916, with the prospect of America’s entry into World War I looming, the Federal Naval Reserve reorganized to allow the enrollment of non-veterans and was designated as the U.S. Naval Reserve Force.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been more than 70,000 Selected Reserve mobilizations, along with an additional 4,500 deployments by full-time support sailors, including more than 8,000 who have done a second combat tour. Since the Reserve’s establishment in 1915, five U.S. presidents have served in the Navy Reserve.