Shoemaker Navy Training and Distribution Center

Brown Grass and Rolling Hills
Camp Parks Continues its Military Training Mission

By Steve Karoly

This story is found in No. 4 (Fall 1998) of the Seabee Log.

"Camp Parks has grown from a muddy expanse to a huge naval training
and replacement center and has taken its place as a vital unit in
the Navy Seabee program. Today on its huge paved parade ground Camp
Parks can muster more than 20,000 men and hundreds of officers."
That is what the Camp Parks cruisebook said in 1945.

Few structures remain from Camp Parks Seabee days. Among them,
according to Camp Parks Public Affairs Officer Lynn Schaak, are the
base commanders house, which overlooks the base from the top of a
hill, and the art deco-style sign at the main gate on Dougherty Road
in Dublin, California.

All else is gone. The World War II buildings were razed after the
war. Even the street numbering sequence changed to suit the Air
Force. Surviving buildings are Korean War vintage, the streets are
named after Air Force heroes and Congressional Medal of Honor
awardees and hundreds of Army trucks fill a dozen motor pools.

But drive south from the main gate on 5th Street and what do you
see? Nothing but a vigilant Fighting Bee guarding Camp Parrington,
home to Detachment D of CBMU 303. The camp, consisting of a small
building at the northwest corner of 5th Street and Fernandez Avenue,
became home to the Bay Area Seabees two years ago after Naval
Station Treasure Island closed.

And that is not all. If you look closely into the building across
the street, you will spy a dungaree-clad Seabee lounging on his
white canvas hammock. Nearby copies of the Camp Parks Log suggest
that this Seabee is catching up on news of his fellow Seabees after
a wearisome day training. His "sweetheart" pillow reminds him of his
loved ones back home.

This scene is found in the History Center of the Parks Reserve
Forces Training Area the current designation for Camp Parks.
Visitors can marvel at artifacts from Camp Park’s three military
eras. Since late 1942, Camp Parks has been home to the Navy, Air
Force and Army.

Seabee exhibits sit just inside the museum entrance. Two foot
lockers donated by John B. Quaccia, a chief petty officer’s olive
drab utility uniform with the Fighting Bee embroidered on the left
shirt pocket from the Vietnam War period and first edition copies of
Camp Parks’ World War II cruise books are among Seabee artifacts at
the museum.

A base for Seabees, sailors, airmen and soldiers Commissioned on
January 19, 1943 as the Construction Battalion Replacement Depot,
Camp Parks functioned as home for Seabees returning from the Pacific
Theater of Operations. Battalions returned to the States after a
year or more of arduous construction duty. They came to Camp Parks
for medical treatment, military training and reorganization.

The base housed up to 20 battalions at a time. Most battalions
prepared for a second tour in the Pacific. Many Seabees were
hospitalized, and those no longer fit for duty received their
discharge. After leave, personnel were subjected to a rigorous
training schedule. The battalions were brought back up to fighting

This land-locked naval base sat adjacent to the quiet Bay Area towns
of Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton. Today, the intersection of
Interstate Highways 580 and 680 is but a short distance from the
southwest corner of the base. Much of the surrounding countryside is
built up. Army units use some 2,300 acres north of the main camp for
field exercises and weapons training. Camp Parks is located 28 miles
east of Oakland, California.

East of the Seabee base, toward Livermore, Camp Shoemaker housed a
Naval Hospital and Naval Training and Personnel Distribution Center.
These facilities served the fleet in much the same manner as Camp
Parks served the Seabees. Collectively the area was known as Fleet

After closing in 1946, Camp Parks sat unused until the Air Force
established a basic training center in 1951. Known as Parks Air
Force Base, the Air Force found it necessary to completely rebuild
the base. The sea of Quonset huts and two-story wooden barracks had
been dismantled following World War II. Base personnel were
initially housed in temporary facilities and ate from a field mess.
Training began in March 1952.

Louis Richard, Jr., a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, remembers
the first group of Airmen who arrived at Camp Parks in the Summer of
1951. He said they were transported to California on a troop train
that felt like a "cattle car." "You had everybody coming out [West]
on that train. I came from Lackland Air Force Base."

Richard remembers finding the base in complete disarray when he
arrived. He found the remaining buildings in poor shape. Otherwise,
a few concrete pads were all that remained. The weeds were waist
high. "The weeds were pretty high," remembers Richard. "All the
lower ranking Airmen, including the cooks, were out there cutting
weeds down."

Closed and transferred to the control of the Presidio of San
Francisco in 1959, the base remained in standby status until
December 1980 when the Parks Reserve Forces Training Area was
established by the Department of the Army.

Weekend warriors train today

Today, the sprawling base's mission is similar to its World War II
mission. Thousands of National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers—and
94 Naval Reserve Seabees' train for war at Camp Parks. One occupant,
1st Brigade of the 91st Division trains Army units using computer
simulators. The base supports some 11,000 San Francisco Bay Area
Army Reserve and California National Guard Soldiers from 180 units.

Many of these units train at Camp Parks for two weeks each summer.
The May/June 1998 issue of The Advisor, Camp Parks' newsletter,
reported on Operation Wild Boar 98, a two-week field hospital
exercise conducted by the 349th General Hospital and 921st Field

"The battle was fought at Fort Hunter-Liggett, where combat support
hospitals were set up and first casualties cared for," The Advisor
reported. "The wounded soldiers who were unable to return to battle,
were transported by C-130 military airplanes from King City to
Hayward Airport, and from there evacuated by helicopter to Parks for
long term care." Both units set up field hospitals complete with
operating rooms, patient wards and support services.

Bay Area Seabees

Although it may not be the newest unit to train at Camp Parks,
Detachment D of CBMU 303 is certainly the most "historic." Camp
Parrington, named after retired EOC Russ Parrington, is home to 94
Seabees Reservists. CBMU 303 is headquartered on Naval Air Station
North Island in Coronado, California.

The Seabees provide a valuable service to Camp Parks. Since their
mission upon mobilization is to maintain an advanced base, they
train by repairing Army facilities on the sprawling base. In
addition to refurbishing their own building, Building 611, last year
the Seabees poured over 1,000 linear feet of new sidewalks on Camp
Parks, according to Ens. John Hurlburt, OIC of the detachment. This
year the detachment will construct a rappelling tower and renovate
houses for the multi-service reserve base.

Receiving Barracks, Shoemaker, California


Location of Shoemaker


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