Army Bases

Sierra Army Depot, California

In 1942, Sierra Army Depot is located on 36,322 acres adjacent to Honey Lake in Lassen County, California, midway between Reno, Nevada and Susanville California. Originally part of the U.S. Army Depot System Command, the installation stored ammunition, special weapons materials, and general supplies. An ammunition maintenance operation, facilities for weapons disposal, and an airfield where also located on the site.

The depot site was acquired in early 1942, and construction began immediately thereafter. Ammunition and combat equipment storage, administration, utility, and maintenance facilities were largely completed by early 1943 and the town of Herlong was constructed at the south end of the site between 1942 and 1944 to house depot personnel. By war S end, 1,021 of the installation s present 1,192 buildings had been constructed. Following the war, storage, special weapons, missile surveillance, and ammunition maintenance facilities were added, and the depot's obsolete housing and community facilities were either upgraded or demolished and replaced.

Prior to Army acquisition in 1942, the semi-desert site was virtually uninhabited and was used primarily as rangeland. In 1933, the Army purchased 60,523 acres at the Sierra site (which included Honey Lake), but did not proceed with construction due to a lack of funding.

Increased Congressional appropriations for defense brought about by the fall of France in 1940 led to the expansion of ammunition storage facilities across the United States. Initial plans called for placing depots in the four corners of the country to support forces repelling attacks from any direction. With increased ammunition production and implementation of the lend-lease program, the need for additional supply depots soon became apparent. Appropriations during the summer of 1941 made possible the construction of a major storage facility on the west coast. In February 1942, the Army leased 16,283 acres adjacent to the Honey Lake property. The expanded site met the Ordnance Department's basic criteria for the location of storage depots: it was a reasonably safe distance from the coast, thus lessening the danger of attack, yet was close enough to western military posts and ports to facilitate shipment of supplies; the area was sparsely settled, decreasing the chance of damage in the event of an ammunition explosion; the dry climate was ideal for ammunition storage; and major rail lines bordered the site on the north (Southern Pacific) and south (Western Pacific).

Work began immediately after lease of the site. The construction contract was awarded to Bressi-Brevanda and Teichert, who focused their immediate efforts on the erection of ammunition storage igloos, magazines, and administration facilities. These were largely completed, along with a housing area, by early 1943. Construction continued through the end of the year with the addition of a 72-bed hospital and the Amedee Airstrip at the northwest corner of the depot.

The majority of buildings on the depot are located in the ammunition storage area where 802 igloos were constructed in 1942. These barrel vaulted structures of reinforced concrete are 26-1/2 feet wide and either 60 or 50 feet long. The earth covered igloos are arranged in blocks of no more than 100 and are spaced at least 400 feet apart. Ten concrete "safehouses," are interspersed in each block to provide shelter for personnel in the event of an explosion. Since the igloos were completed before rail lines had been extended into the storage area, a makeshift system consisting of borrowed track and a steam engine was initially used to move ammunition into the depot in early 1943.

Additional facilities were constructed in the area in 1942 to facilitate the movement, storage, and care of ammunition. These include two wood-frame structures used as a field office (Building 400) and a less-than-carload building (Building 403), an inspectors workshop built of brick and clay tile Building 401). and eight brick dunnage/equipment buildings (Buildings 423, 437, 449, 489, 498, 509, 528, and 533). Eleven standard above-ground magazines (Buildings 426-430 and 438-443), built of brick and hollow clay tile, were also erected in the ammunition storage area west of the igloo blocks.

In 1947 the Sierra Army Depot's (SIAD) mission expanded to include renovation and demilitarization of ammunition. SIAD also receives, issues, stores, renovates, and demilitarizes (destroys) ammunition. Since the decision of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1995 to realign the Depots ammunition functions, most operations involve the disposal of obsolete or outdated munitions. Three facilities are identified specifically for demilitarization of ammunition at SIAD. The deactivation furnace is an incinerator that can demilitarize small arms ammunition, primers, fuses, and boosters. The Depot has approval from the state of California to demilitarize up to 0.50 caliber rounds in the deactivation furnace. As such, two general purpose buildings are used to download and pull apart ammunition for demilitarization. They are equipped with intrusion detection systems and rapid response deluge systems for safety.

SIAD is licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to receive, store, issue, renovate, and demilitarize (disassemble) depleted uranium rounds. SIAD has the largest open burn/open detonation capacity in the United States. Fourteen pits, permitted by the state of California, can detonate up to 10,000 pounds net explosive weight per pit. The Depots demilitarize grounds are also able to burn materials up to 100,000 pounds net explosive weight. The open detonation pits are also used to dispose of large rocket motors with a 160,000-pound net explosive weight capacity for the pit area. The large open-burn/open-detonation capability of the Depot provides the Department of Defense and government contractors with the ability to destroy large rocket motors at a lower cost than any other location. SIAD takes every step possible to be a good neighbor and operates under all local, state, and federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations to get the job done with minimal environmental impact.

In 1950, with the build up for the Korean War, Sierra Army Depot's (SIAD's) workload reached an all time high. SIAD joined the efforts of a stockpile program, which regained its previous momentum expanding to the point of becoming a separate and independent organization. GSA assigned the stockpile program to its newly created Emergency Procurement Service on 1 September 1950. This organization became the Defense Materials Service on 7 September 1956, with the responsibilities of managing not only the stockpile, but also the National Industrial Equipment Reserve Program, and the Civil Defense Emergency Program.

Between 1949 and 1988, the General Service Administration and Federal Emergency Management agency were responsible for the program. In 1988, the responsibility for the program was delegated to the Secretary of Defense who assigned the program to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) . The Defense National Stockpile Center (DNSC) was established within DLA to manage the program.

In 1993, Sierra Army Depot (SIAD) was designated as the Armys Center of Technical Excellence for Operational Project Stocks. SIAD is home to the three largest Operational Project Stocks in the Army: Inland Petroleum Distribution System, Water Support System, and Force Provider. In addition, SIAD is home for other Operational Project Stocks including: Deployable Medical Systems - Non-Medical Equipment, Army Field Feeding Systems, Large Area Maintenance Shelters, Landing Mat Sets, and Bridging.

SIAD was awarded the Value Engineering Commanders Excellence Award for government owned, government operated facilities in fiscal year 1998. SIAD earned the award for exceeding the Value Engineering program goal by 270%, for a total cost savings of $3,773,000. Another of SIADs efforts resulted in the design and building of container rotation devices which significantly reduced the costs associated with container movement through each repair station.

SIADs high-desert location provides ideal conditions for storing Operational Project Stocks for extended periods of time. Pacific air that moves into the region loses most of its moisture before reaching the Honey Lake Valley, resulting in an average yearly high temperature of 66.9 degrees and a low of 36.4 degrees. Average yearly precipitation is 7.49 inches, with an average yearly humidity of only 30.96. SIAD has ready access to all west coast ports. The Depot is connected by several all-weather highways, has an internal rail system linked with two transcontinental rail lines, and has a 7,100-foot runway that accommodates up to C5A aircraft.

Repair facilities located at SIAD include the management of the Inland Petroleum Distribution Systems; Water Support Systems; Force Provider; Army Field Feeding Systems; Large Area Maintenance Shelters; Landing Mat Sets; Bridging; and Reserve Component Hospital Detachment Associated Support Items of Equipment (non-medical). The activities at SIAD include receipt, storage, and care of supplies in storage, repair, assembly, disassembly, and shipment of major and secondary items for all systems.

SIAD also receives, issues, stores, renovates, and demilitarizes (destroys) ammunition. Since the decision of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1995 to realign the Depots ammunition functions, most operations involve the disposal of obsolete or outdated munitions. Three facilities are identified specifically for demilitarization of ammunition at SIAD. The deactivation furnace is an incinerator that can demilitarize small arms ammunition, primers, fuses, and boosters. The Depot has approval from the state of California to demilitarize up to 0.50 caliber rounds in the deactivation furnace. As such, two general purpose buildings are used to download and pull apart ammunition for demilitarization. They are equipped with intrusion detection systems and rapid response deluge systems for safety.

SIAD has the largest open burn/open detonation capacity in the United States. Fourteen pits, permitted by the state of California, can detonate up to 10,000 pounds net explosive weight per pit. The Depots demilitarize grounds are also able to burn materials up to 100,000 pounds net explosive weight. The open detonation pits are also used to dispose of large rocket motors. The large open-burn/open-detonation capability of the Depot provides the Department of Defense and government contractors with the ability to destroy large rocket motors at a lower cost than any other location. SIAD takes every step possible to be a good neighbor and operates under all local, state, and federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations to get the job done with minimal environmental impact.

In 1995 the Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) office reduced Sierra Army Depot's ammunition mission.

In 2001 Sierra Army Depot ceased its mission to renovate and demilitarize ammunition using the Open Burning Open Detonation (OB/OD) process. The Army's Industrial Operation Command (IOC), which manages the Pentagon's demilitarization program, wants industry to propose recycling-based solutions. Due to cutbacks two major ammo warehouses were shut along with Sierra Army Depot in Herlong, California, including Savanna Depot, Illinois; Seneca Depot in Romulus, New York.

By 2001, there were only eight ammo storage facilities. That is half of what it was in 1990.

Budgets notwithstanding, Army officials at the conference made it clear that the future of demilitarization is not with open burning open detonation but with recycling and recovery technologies.

In 2002, to deal with the maintenance backlog and to help its organic depots survive, TACOM created the so-called Ground Systems Industrial Enterprise. The GSIE is the corporate umbrella organization for six Army installations: the Sierra Army Depot (Calif.), the Rock Island Arsenal (Ill.), the Watervliet Arsenal (N.Y.), the Lima Army Tank Plant (Ohio), the Anniston Army Depot (Ala.) and the Red River Army Depot (Texas).

In the past, these depots and arsenals have been competitors. Now, they will be a; "single business unit", said Jimmy Morgan, director of GSIE. He said that TACOM already has been in discussions with 19 government-employee unions about the implications of this reorganization. The unions realized that this might be the only way to save jobs that, without the GSEI, would be lost in future rounds of base closures, said Morgan. "There are alternatives that none of us likes, so the unions support this to try to prevent these alternatives".

By combining all the depots and arsenals, the Army is hoping to reap financial and industrial benefits. "We are trying to get the available capacity, make use of it and spread the overhead", Thompson said. Program managers often contract out their maintenance work without considering that the Army may be able to do the work in-house, possibly at a lower cost, he added. "We have the capability in-house and we still pay a contractor to do the work", he said. "My intent is to stop the Army from paying twice to get the same thing."

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