YORKTOWN, Va (NNS) -- Naval Weapons Station (WPNSTA) Yorktown is known for providing "Ordnance on Target" to the warfighters, but the 15,000-acre facility plays another important role in today's military. With more than 19 training zones, two small arms ranges, an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) range, and two helicopter landing pads, WPNSTA Yorktown is prime real estate for training of the armed forces.
In 2014, 55 military units and civilian government agencies conducted more than 67,000 man-hours of training. Jerry Griffin, range training officer at WPNSTA Yorktown, explained that the installation offers unique opportunities for military commands needing specific types of training. "We have training sites that are unique to Hampton Roads and that's bringing people up here," Griffin added.
One of the recent additions to the installation's training capabilities is the renewed level of use at one of two helicopter landing pads, LZ Mason and LZ Pinto, at WPNSTA Yorktown. According to Griffin, helicopter squadrons are always looking for new venues. They operate at the LZ's for "touch and go" training while Marine Corps Security Force Regiment (MCSFR), a tenant command at WPNSTA Yorktown, has increasingly used the helo-pads for "fast rope" and aircraft transition training for the FAST (Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team) companies.
"The Marines utilize our training zones 50% of the year, followed by the Navy at 47%, Army at 2% and all others less than 1%," Griffin said. "However, if you add in the small arms range, those are almost exclusively used by the Navy."
The small arms range at Cheatham Annex (CAX) is used year-round for pistol, rifle, and shotgun qualifications. Its primary purpose is for training the WPNSTA Yorktown Security Force, but when they're not using it, it is booked solid by visiting ships, ships in the Newport News Shipyard, and installation tenant commands on the peninsula.
The two largest training zones on WPNSTA Yorktown belong to two tenant commands under Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). The Home Station Training Lanes (HSTL) provides counter- improvised explosive device (IED) training to NECC Sailors, as well as Sailors from deploying units and service members from other branches of the armed forces. HSTL Manager, Mike Cobble, told Sailors undergoing counter-IED training that, "the procedures we're teaching you are written in blood."
The other training zone is at CAX and is primarily used by Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) for their "tent city" set up. Tent city gives deploying units the chance to train and live in a self-sufficient, expeditionary environment similar to what they would experience overseas.
"The NAVELSG schoolhouse offers basic and advanced cargo handling, shipboard pedestal cranes, air cargo, expeditionary fuels training at Fort Lee, along with field messing, expeditionary cargo operations, explosive driver and weapons training to three regimental and six battalion reserve component personnel comprising over 2700 members across the United States," said Chief Master-at-Arms Duane Piercy, NAVELSG Training Department School House leading chief.
This is also practiced by Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command (NEMSCOM) for their fleet hospitals. These hospitals can range from 20-200 beds with full medical and dental capabilities to support deployed forces.
"About everything we do crosses both operational commitments and training," Griffin said. "These training sites can be used not only for training but also for equipment testing."
NEMSCOM and NAVELSG combine both operational and training commitments annually during "Exercise Trident Arch" where fleet hospitals, packed into connex boxes, are loaded onto cargo ships to be rotated from staging areas overseas. Additionally, the fleet hospitals were put to the test in 2013 with a collective protection exercise, under the Bureau of Navy Medicine, exercising chemical, biological and radiological capabilities during a mass casualty drill.
"NAVELSG represents the central training point for all mobilizing reserve component personnel in support of expeditionary logistics cargo operations for the Navy and Joint Service Customer," said Chief Mass Communication Specialist Edward Kessler, NAVELSG public affairs officer.
Training opportunities at WPNSTA Yorktown have, at times, reached personnel as far away as Chicago, Illinois, and New Orleans, Louisiana. The EOD range has hosted training courses conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in forensic examination. The range was first used to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED), allowing students to study the blast area and separate materials needed to identify the bomb and its components.
"The EOD range is considered a training range for specialized training under EOD," Griffin said.
Overall, the training capabilities of WPNSTA Yorktown have proven to be a vital asset to our Navy and our nation in defense of our country. Though ordnance remains the primary mission for the installation, training is becoming a major factor in its ongoing mission.
For more news from Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, visit www.navy.mil/local/nwsyorktown/.