Retired Navy Capt. Charlie Plumb, a Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war (POW), visited with Sailors from two of the five learning sites in the Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering (CSFE) domain, Feb. 26.
During his visit, Plumb toured the Seabee Museum and Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Port Hueneme “A” School. He also spoke to the students from NCTC and Civil Engineer Corps Basic Class 266.
During his speech, he recounted his life as a naval officer and fighter pilot and described the challenges he faced and overcame during the six years he spent as a POW in Vietnam. He also explained how honored he was to be able to learn more about the Seabees -- from the Father of the Seabees, Adm. Ben Moreell, to the first and only Seabee to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Shields.
“I’ve known Seabees for a long time but I never really understood the depth of who you guys are and what you do,” said Plumb. “[You] come here and twist wrenches on machines and learn to be mechanics and learn the competencies of your job. But more important, in your life in the military – and certainly my life as a prisoner of war – is the character that is developed right here in these schools.”
Plumb joined the Navy and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1964. Upon his graduation and commissioning, he completed Navy flight training and was soon after called upon to help establish the Navy Fighter Weapons School – also known as “Top Gun.”
Shortly after, Plumb was assigned to fly the F-4 Phantom jet. With call sign “PLUMBER,” he flew 74 successful combat missions over North Vietnam.
On his 75th mission, with only five days remaining until he was to return home, Plumb was shot down over Hanoi in North Vietnam. He spent the next 2,103 days – nearly six years – as a POW in an 8-by-8-foot prison cell.
Plumb mixed humor with earnestness and touched the hearts of a full theater of Seabees, Air Force engineers, and civilians with his story.
“I personally heard him speak during my time at the Naval Academy and his message still resonates with me today,” said NCTC Port Hueneme Commanding Officer, Capt. Rafi Miranda. “In fact, I would say it helped build my foundation and shape me into the officer that I am today.”
Established in 2003 by Naval Education and Training Command, CSFE manages the following learning sites: Civil Engineer Corps Officer School, Port Hueneme; NCTC Gulfport, Miss.; NCTC Port Hueneme; CSFE Det. Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; and CSFE Det. Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
For more information about CSFE, visit https://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/csfe/ or follow CSFE on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CenterForSeabeesPortHueneme/
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