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Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach command takes two of the Navy’s highest awards back-to-back

Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach (Northwalker/WikiCommons)

Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and its Fallbrook and Norco bases have received two of the Navy’s top awards recognizing the command for its efforts at safety and protecting the environment.

The awards – two of the Navy’s most prestigious – were handed out back-to-back. The Seal Beach base and its detachments in Fallbrook and Norco were honored with the 2019 Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award on April 22. And, the day before, base officials learned the command also won the 2019 Secretary of the Navy Environmental Award for Natural Resources Conservation.

The awards are given annually among 30 other Naval bases of similar size. While this command frequently wins a higher percentage of awards Navy-wide, it hasn’t won the two awards back-to-back.

“These awards are a perfect example that what we do matters, but how we do it matters even more,” said Capt. Jason Sherman, base commander. “I’m extremely proud of the work we accomplish here, and I’m not at all surprised that we have been once again recognized at such a high level.”

The 5,000-acre Seal Beach installation is responsible for weapons storage, loading and maintenance for ships of the United States Pacific Fleet.

Officials at the base, which provides ammunition to about 40 ships a year, received authorization from state and federal groups last summer to move forward with plans for a $150 million renovation of their ammunition pier. The Navy expects to service more ships once the project is complete. The new pier – scheduled for completion in 2025 – will allow larger ships to more safely enter Anaheim Bay for loading and unloading.

The Fallbrook base, with 8,000 acres, is also a munition storage facility. The Norco base, with 700 acres, does assessments for weapons systems and calibrations.

At the Seal Beach, Fallbrook and Norco facilities, new safety processes have led to greater hazard identification and abatement, as well as improved controls, risk management and mishap prevention, officials said. While mishaps generally are rare, the new protocols put even stricter procedures in place.

Some include ways to prevent falls among personnel and making sure that sailors have respiratory protection that meets regulatory guidelines.

“Even more importantly, all levels of the command have proactively executed their safety roles and responsibilities,” said Thomas Beck, the base’s safety director. “We always say that every person aboard our installations is a safety observer, but it is the workforce that lives it every day.”

The Fallbrook base received acclaim for its environmental measures.

The award recognizes that installation’s efforts to reduce artificial lighting and glare by bringing lighting fixtures into compliance with International Dark-Sky Association standards. The new darker environment should benefit locally endangered and threatened species such as the Stephens kangaroo rat and the California gnatcatcher, officials said.

Personnel at the North San Diego County base also worked on reducing the likelihood and severity of wildfires by improving the opportunities for cattle grazing, updating the base Fire Atlas, which maps critical habitat and other sensitive resources to aid firefighters, and maintaining a remote automated weather station which hooks directly into both the National Weather Service and the National Interagency Fire Center.

In partnership with the National Wildlife Federation and the Naval Information Warfare Center, base environmental staff co-authored the military’s first Climate Adaptation Guide, to be used by military bases to prepare for climate change impacts to natural resources. This document was approved in June and is now used throughout the Department of Defense.

“Both safety and environmental stewardship are fundamental values that form some of the most basic elements of our culture as Navy professionals,” Sherman said. “We live by these values, and they should intertwine into all of our activities, both on duty and off duty.”


© 2020 The Orange County Register