NAWS $4 billion earthquake recovery ongoing

NAWS $4 billion earthquake recovery ongoingNaval Air Weapons Station China Lake- Public Affairs Officer, Hannah Moore

Independence Day weekend 2021 represented the second anniversary of the M6.4 and M7.1 earthquakes that shook Ridgecrest in 2019. A gentle reminder came in the form of a M3.5 earthquake on July 6, 2021.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake has taken great strides in its earthquake recovery efforts in the two years since those life changing events. Community excitement surrounding construction progress has mounted in recent months resulting in an uptick in distinguished visitor tour requests. The most recent visit being from Christopher Quinones, Field Representative for 16th District, Senator Shannon Groves.

Mr. Quinones met with Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Commanding Officer Captain Jeremy Vaughan, NAWSCL Public Works Officer Commander Pete Benson, Officer in-Charge of Construction Executive Officer Commander Tim Kaber and Naval Air Warfare Center Division Deputy Director Brad Harlow. In addition to providing a mission’s capability brief to Mr. Quinones, the site visit included a tour of several of the largest Military Construction projects included in the $4 billion Earthquake Recovery program.

Mr. Quinone’s tour showcased both the historical and present day significance of China Lake. The first stop on the earthquake recovery tour was of the South Airfield project located at Armitage Field. The history of Armitage Field dates back to 1945, with the original construction of the field completed in May of that year. The airfield is named after LT Armitage, a test pilot killed while conducting a test evolution on the Tiny Tim rocket. Assets were relocated from nearby Inyokern Airfield to be housed within the new hangars and storage facilities. Boasting impressive features for the time, the airfield incorporated three runways, advanced lighting systems, and a hangar large enough to house the largest aircraft of the time, the B-29 bomber (Gerrard-Gough and Christman, 1978).

“The South Airfield Project is the Super Bowl of all earthquake recovery MILCON projects aboard NAWSCL.” Captain Laurie Scott, Officer in Charge of Construction, debuted the phrase during the South Airfield Groundbreaking Ceremony in March of 2021. The example is fitting in that the South Airfield project encompasses a total footprint of 190 acres, equal to roughly 144 football fields, and totaling more than $750M in appropriations funding. Ensconced in the South Airfield Project are plans to repave and fortify the existing runways, construct a new air traffic control tower and air operations facility, construction of two aircraft hangars and a new fire-rescue station adjacent to the airfield complex. Completion is slated for 2023.

The present day South Airfield MILCON project is being executed by international construction company ECC. Headquartered in California, ECC is an employee-owned company that maintains a global footprint of 13 offices worldwide. No stranger to expansive defense construction projects, ECC’s portfolio includes a recent Global Contingency Construction Multiple Award Contract with a total capacity of $5 billion.

ECC contractors have settled into Ridgecrest, CA for the foreseeable future and community outreach is an important aspect of the South Airfield team’s project approach. Don Clause, ECC Senior Project Manager for the South Airfield project, recently coordinated with Hensel Phelps on a replacement effort for the Burroughs High School football sideline benches and goal posts.

Quality of Life programs are essential to the morale and welfare of China Lake families. The final stop on Mr. Quinone’s tour was of the P1916 Community Support Facilities project. The new Multi-Purpose Religious Facility replaces the All Faith Chapel, which was erected in 1957 and served NAWSCL for 62 years before its irreparable damage in the 2019 earthquakes. When construction began on the new facility in 2021, a time capsule was excavated revealing its placement in 1956 at the onset of the Chapel’s original construction. Contents of the capsule revealed an issue of the Central California REGISTER, a copy of the New Testament, an issue of the NOTS Rocketeer, and a copy of Erma Pierson’s book “Kern’s Desert”. A new time capsule has been constructed by the NAVFAC Seabees and will be placed under the new multi-purpose facility. The capsule will include items from each tenant command and squadron aboard the installation.

The P1916 project encompasses both the Multi-Purpose Religious Facility and the Aquatics and Fitness Facility. Located on the footprint of what was Bennington Theater, the Multi-Purpose Religious Facility will serve as the new home for religious offerings as well as large scale training space for all tenant commands to utilize. The facility will be anchored by a 64 foot, 6 inch tall bell tower. Adjacent to the religious facility will be the aquatics and fitness facility. It features a 25 meter indoor salt water pool, indoor basketball court, and both weight and cardio rooms.

Groups can expect to begin attending services or training in the Multi-Purpose Religious Facility as early as fall of 2022, with construction expected to finish on both the aquatics and gym facility in close order.

“The facilities and infrastructures in reconstruction today are vitally important to the future mission of the installation. The foundation and purpose of this weapons station are rooted in aiding and supporting America’s warfighter. Each and every member of China Lake has a part in that effort. We look forward to completing our reconstruction and the positive impact it will have on our mission and quality of life.” –Installation Commanding Officer Captain Jeremy Vaughan.

Historical references in this article were pulled from History of the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California, Volume 2, by J.D. Gerrard- Gough and Albert B. Christman. History of the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California spans four volumes.

NAWSCL Public Affairs photo: LT John Blum, OICC China Lake Construction Manager briefs Field Representative Christopher Quinones on the South Airfield project.

Story First Published: 2021-08-06