Supported commands from Naval Support Facility (NSF) Indian Head presented "reports to the community" at the quarterly Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) Community Relations Council meeting at the town of Indian Head's Village Green Pavilion on Aug. 2. The council brings together military leadership from NSASP installations in Dahlgren and Indian Head with local leaders; from the town of Indian Head and Charles County on the Maryland side of the river, and the town of Colonial Beach and King George County on the Virginia side. The meeting complimented the previous meeting of the COMREL Council, when community leaders were briefed by military leaders from Dahlgren-based commands.
Capt. Pete Nette, commanding officer of NSASP, welcomed guests and thanked the volunteers who helped serve breakfast, before turning over the podium to Dennis Scheessele, mayor of the town of Indian Head. "Things are looking forward for the Town of Indian Head," said Scheessele. "We're looking to bring visitors into the town to ride the Indian Head Rail Trail and get visitors who are riding the rail trail into town to visit our businesses."
Scheessele highlighted many projects underway in the Town of Indian Head designed to do just that, including rail trail plaza on the Village Green with a picnic pavilion and public restrooms. A trail connecting the Village Green and the Indian Head Rail Trail is also in the works. Scheessele also announced that a study has been commissioned to measure the pros and cons of the proposed Potomac River Commuter Ferry.
Candice Quinn Kelly, president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners, took center stage next and praised the regional collaboration facilitated by the COMREL. "Without a regional approach, we are certainly going to make no progress," she said. "For that reason, we really embrace COMREL."
Kelly announced that Charles County approved its fiscal year 2013 budget and noted how both military and civilian leaders continue to face tough funding decisions as a result of the recession. "We did approve our fiscal year 2013 budget," she said. "We were very proud as a board of commissioners to commit $100,000 to the Indian Head Defense Alliance. We're committed to this base."
The community around NSF Indian Head has been keeping tabs on the budget cuts facing the Department of Defense and Kelly touched on what will be a major factor in any future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. "Obviously encroachment is an important piece of that and that's where our meetings and our regional approach are so important," said Kelly.
Maryland's Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, more commonly known as the Septic Bill, is designed to limit some types of land development through a tiered land use system. County leaders will consider the current and future needs of NSF Indian Head as the law is implemented, said Kelley. "How we grow, how we project, how we want to see our county look in 20 years, is one of the most important facets, in terms of protecting the role and the missions of [NSF] Indian Head."
Report to the Community
Dennis McLaughlin, technical director of Indian Head's largest supported command, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD), discussed his organization's mission and future prospects. "We are the Center of Excellence for DoD for energetics," he told the audience. "Energetics are things that have a lot of energy in them. We define energetics as explosives, propellants, pyrotechnics and the things that go along with them such as rockets, fuses, chemicals and fuels, and in particular, torpedo fuel. We are the only place in the nation that is authorized to make torpedo fuel for our country and for 26 allied nations."
McLaughlin provided the numbers from the most recent activities of NSWC IHD. "Of all formulations that have gone into weapons systems since 1985, [70 percent] have come from Indian Head."
That energetics excellence has manifest most recently with improved rocket launchers, energetic materials, grenades and a test kit that helps the operating forces identify the improvised explosives used by enemies. "We've been able to reverse-engineer exactly what they're doing and how they're doing it," said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin also talked about his organization's work providing servicing and propellants for the ejection seats of all U.S. military aircraft, along with those of allies. "We're very proud," he said. "We've saved hundreds of U.S. pilots and several allied pilots as well.
Members of NSWC IHD also serve the community, said McLaughlin, providing support for educational outreaches, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, 4-H and MENSA. NSWC IHD recognizes employees who give back to the community with the Capt. H. Lackey award.
Capt. Thomas Smith, commanding officer of Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NAVEODTECHDIV), began his presentation with a video depicting a real-life account of how his organization saves the lives of service members with the most dangerous role on the modern battlefield.
In it, a Navy bomb disposal team uses a robot to remotely inspect a suspicious feature along a road in Afghanistan. The suspicion was well-founded: a hidden bomb exploded and though the robot was destroyed, the service members survived unscathed.
"That was a pretty big IED," said one of the EOD technicians in the video. "I hate blowing up robots, but at least it wasn't one of us."
The crowd was impressed. "Globally, we fielded and managed engineering and repairs for over 2,500 man-portable small and medium-sized robots to EOD warfighters, globally," said Smith. "Some of [those robots] are no longer around, but that's a good thing. It means that's one more EOD technician who is around."
Smith detailed how since the 1970s, the Navy and NAVEODTECHDIV has managed EOD technology development for DoD. NAVEOD TECHDIV supports thousands of EOD technicians in every branch of the service, a mission NAVEODTECHDIV employees take personally.
"Our motto is 'keep them off the wall'," said Smith, in reference to the memorial wall for EOD technicians at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. "Per capita, if you look at the casualty rate, the EOD specialty has the highest casualty rate, bar none."
Capt. Jason Gilbert, commanding officer of the Naval Ordnance Safety and Security Activity (NOSSA), told community leaders about the role his organization plays in keeping service members safe. "From cradle to grave, we look after the Navy and Marine Corps' interest in safe [ordnance]," he said. "From how it's handled, to how it's stored, how it's constructed."
The NOSSA mission encompasses procurement and evaluation of ordnance-related combat systems in an increasingly joint operating environment. "We work a lot with our sister services when it comes to explosives safety," said Gilbert. "We [also] promulgate guidance for explosive safety."
Like all of the activities hosting onboard NSF Indian Head, NOSSA employees are active in the community. Gilbert highlighted members of his command who serve several community interests, such as conservation work and diversity initiatives. "It's nice to be part of the community and nice to be involved," he said.
The Naval Sea Logistics Center (NSLC) Indian Head Detachment mission is an information technology mission, said Lynn Kohl, executive director of NSLC. "[We are] the central design agent for all maintenance and logistics systems in the [Naval Sea Systems Command]," she said. "We are basically a bunch of logisticians and information technology specialists."
That mission involves helping the Fleet prepare its technical resources for deployment. "One of the biggest things we do in our command is, we program, write, administer, update and maintain all the information technology that makes all the moving parts fit together," said Kohl.
Many NSLC Indian Head Detachment employees support the Boy and Girl Scouts, Lions Club, science fairs, elections and church activities in their off time and a few give back to the community on stage. "We have lots of folks who are actors with the Port Tobacco Players," said Kohl.
The Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) also has an information technology-related mission. "JITC is in existence today to reduce the risks faced by warfighters in the field," said Christopher Watson, National Capital Region liaison officer for JITC. "We work very closely with all the combatant commanders during field exercises, as well as operations contingencies."
Watson detailed his organization's broad mandate. "We are the designated joint interoperability certifier for all systems in the field that are characterized as either information technology, or national security systems in accordance with joint staff and [Office of the Secretary of Defense] policy," he said.
While accomplishing that vital mission, JITC employees stay active in the community, supporting local animal shelters and the La Plata Fall Festival.
Leaders from the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) were unable to attend the COMREL due to mission obligations, but Nette presented a report to the community outlining some of the command's activities. "Their mission is to save lives," said Nette.
Rotating CBIRF teams are always on standby to respond to any chemical, biological or radiological threat across the world. CBIRF recently accomplished missions supporting convention events in the United States and Operation Tomodachi, the humanitarian response to the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
"In closing, I'd like to thank the Town of Indian Head for hosting and Commissioner Kelly for your kind remarks," said Nette. "It's important to take away that commands at NSF Indian Head are strategic, supporting current and future operations. They all have military value."