“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. Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Jones, a 2011 Franklin County High School graduate and native of Apalachicola, builds and fights around the world as a member of naval construction battalion center located in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Jones is serving as a Navy builder, responsible for teaching apprentice level skills to new Seabees.
"I'm a builder, so we are responsible for vertical and horizontal construction,” said Jones. “We place and finish concrete. We lay block. We do floor and wall framing, and we do finish work, along with a multitude of other jobs.”
Jones credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Apalachicola. He is the son of Kim and Mitch Griner, and grandson of Ginny and Linn Griner, and Sheree Dykes and the late Levaughn Chumney, all of Apalachicola.
Jones and his wife Morgan have a 2-year-old daughter Gracelynn.
“I grew up in a small town where everyone knows each other, and we say, 'good morning' and 'how are you',” said Jones. “Growing up having that respect for others, and using proper mannerisms and courtesies made a transition to Navy life easy because those are the things we use every day."
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.
Jones 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 America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and 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, Jones is most proud of earning a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal in 2015.
“I earned this award while I was part of a small detachment that built two schools in Fiji,” said Jones. "The project was part of Pacific Partnership, where we worked with other national militaries. Being my first deployment, it was a special one."
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Jones, who is honored to carry on that family legacy. His late grandfather Levaughn Chumney served in the Navy, and his older brother Chris Chumney, a 2009 FCHS grad, recently moved to Gulfport with his wife, the former Jessica Galloway, and serves in the Seabees alongside his brother.
“My brother is also a builder in the Seabees,” said Jones. "He showed me that I had more to offer through serving in the military. It means a lot to be serving alongside him and keeps me motivated to continue pushing through to reach career milestones."
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Jones and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
"Serving in the Navy means that I can provide for my wife and daughter while doing something that I love,” added Jones.
Alvin Plexico is with the Navy Office of Community Outreach.