On August 8, 2017, the Grampaw Pettibone Squadron was pleased to have as its guest speaker Captain Noel J. Dahlke, Commander of the Naval Weapon Station Seal Beach. Captain Dahlke gave us an overview of the assignment and capabilities of supporting our Navy operations in the Pacific. Currently, the Navy is operating 79 ships at sea in the Pacific Ocean and the Naval Weapon Station Seal Beach, supplies all of these ships with ammunition. Ammunition consists of everything from hand gun bullets, artillery shells, bombs, torpedoes, mines and several kinds of missiles. All of these weapons must be maintained in combat ready condition. Every time a ship comes into port these weapons are unloaded at the facility and checked and/or updated to be sure that they are combat ready. Many of the new modern weapons, missiles and torpedoes have extensive computer systems which must be checked and sometimes reprogrammed. Some missiles are carried by aircraft which may have a variety of electronic systems that include radar and heat seeking. Other missiles fired from ships may travel hundreds of miles targeted to a specific target as small as a vehicle. Many of these missiles require as much as four days for a crew to give them a complete check-up. These weapons are truly amazing!
The base employs 205 Navy personnel, plus 520 civilian employees, and about 800 reserve personnel train at the base regularly. The base is huge: over 5,000 acres with 80 miles of roads in the base with almost one million square feet of storage area for munitions. It’s larger than many cities in Orange County. There are only two weapons stations on the West Coast. The other one is in the Seattle area, a thousand miles north of here.
The base is environmentally friendly. It maintains a 1,000 acre wild life preserve, the only wild life preserve in the Los Angeles basin. Several endangered species make their home in this refuge. The base leases out land between its bunkers for agricultural use. It is one of the largest urban farming operations in Orange County.
The base loads and unloads at its own wharf for loading and unloading small Navy vessels, and there is a mooring about three miles off shore for loading and unloading large ships. The base is currently handling about 40 ships per year, or almost one a week.
The base is planning significant improvements that run from rebuilding its 50 to 70 year old buildings, building additional storage, improvements in its waterfront facilities including enlarging its wharf and routing traffic more efficiently. This is good news for our local economy to have the Navy plan to keep its presence here well into the future! Most of us can recall the large facilities at El Toro and Long Beach which no longer exist.
The base contributes about $140,000,000 to our local economy. We are truly fortunate to have such a well managed community-minded government facility in our neighborhood. We were very pleased to have Captain Dahlke give us an overview of this important facility.