Frigate's Crew Mans the Mops for Summerfest

From setting up exhibits to swabbing decks, Navy officials worked all week to get the Naval Construction Battalion Center in shipshape for this weekend's annual Seabee Summerfest.

Cleaning was the top priority for the 200-man crew of the guided missile frigate Gary from San Diego that will be open for tours during the festival.

"The reputation of a ship is often preceded by its cleanliness," Lt. Robert Falk said. "Preservation is everything because it's the taxpayers' ship."

Seabee Summerfest activities will kick off Saturday at 11 a.m. with a military parade. Other events include a motorcycle show, a pet look-alike contest and live music throughout the day. On Sunday, there will be a classic car show, a Star Spangled Baby Contest and more music.

The center has sponsored the free festival since 1986.

"It's like an open house and it's really an invitation for the community to come out and get to know the Seabees better," spokeswoman Linda Wandley said.

But before visitors arrive, preparations must continue. Seaman Ed Fay spent much of his week painting the Gary's deck.

"It's a Navy thing to keep everything clean," Fay said. "It's like living at home. You wouldn't have your house a mess."

Crew members also link cleanliness to good morale.

"The better you look, the better you'll do," Radioman Laramie Brown said as he swept the deck. "Keeping it looking nice has a lot to do with a good attitude. You don't want a rusty old boat."

The 450-foot ship and its crew are in constant battle with saltwater. To combat the elements, antennas are cleaned, fresh coats of paint are applied and mechanical systems are regularly checked.

"This is a perfect time for us to focus on that," Capt. Joe Harriss said.

Having recently given tours of the Gary in Australia, Harriss said his crew is ready to meet Ventura County residents.

"They're pretty savvy at this," he said.

Across the base, Seabee Petty Officer Charles Munoz led a group of 10 Seabees constructing tents and barracks for exhibits. He sees the annual event as a way for the community to learn what Seabees do.

"We're the construction workers that go to war," Munoz said. "We have military and construction training. There's a lot of pride and tradition in what we do."

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