Retired Col. James Town, commander of the Hawthorne Army Depot from May 18, 1979, through June 18, 1981, visited here, recently.
Town has fond memories of his time in Hawthorne, so his daughter, Ila Friend, made arrangements with depot personnel to help the family celebrate the former commander’s 82nd birthday with a visit to his old stomping grounds.
Upon their arrival, Friend was moved to tears as she noticed the photo of her father in the entryway with the other Army commanders.
Town received a video overview of the installation followed by a depot-wide tour. Hawthorne Army Depot receives, stores and issues conventional munitions; demilitarizes and disposes of unserviceable, obsolete and surplus munitions; and maintains serviceability, through inspection and renovation, to ensure munitions readiness in support of Joint Forces.
As he began the tour, Town said, “When I left, we had this new Western Demil Facility.”
Lt. Col. Gregory Gibbons, commander of the depot, advised him that he would get a chance to see that again.
Town viewed the set up of operations at the New Bomb Range, followed by a drive through of the Western Area Demilitarization Facility. As buildings used for various operations, such as wash out, steam out, and melt out were pointed out, the progress of using environmentally friendly methods for demilitarization was discussed. Safety was another topic because the ability to conduct sawing operations remotely is a greatly improved process. The use of pneumatic equipment, utilizing air logistics, also makes it intrinsically safer for working with munitions.
As he rode by a group of bunkers, Town asked, “Did they ever go through every bunker and clean it out?”
He then asked Gibbons if he had been in all of the bunkers.
“I went through a whole bunch of them, but I gave up after a while,” Town said.
Kirk Bausman, deputy to the commander, told Town that the bunkers are on an inventory schedule and are maintained regularly.
Town wanted to know if Gibbons was here for a two-year tour.
Gibbons said, “I would stay here for four if I could. This is a great assignment.”
“We would’ve stayed here longer. We liked it here,” said Friend.
Jan Peterson, Cliff Cichowlaz, and Leatha Barcellos stopped by to visit and reminisce with their former commander. The group ate lunch at the Walker Golf Course.
“When I served here, this was the best tour of my career,” Town said.
Barcellos wanted to make sure the right perspective was maintained.
She said, “It was best because I was his budget officer.”
Cichowlaz presented Town with a sesquicentennial coin and Gibbons presented him a hat with the HWAD logo and a depot coin. Town was especially excited about the hat as he had forgotten his for the trip.
In addition to memories of his command at HWAD, Town shared a few others. He thought highly of his days attending ranger school. He recalled a time when the rangers were separated from the outfit and had to travel twenty miles to get back together. He said that a couple of days they ended up eating grass.
“It was the best school in the world,” he declared.
He also remembered his first assignment, which had been at the Pentagon. He said when he first worked there, they didn’t even need keys. They just walked in the building.
The Town family visited Gibbons and his wife in their home, that of many past commanders. Town remembered, at the time he lived there, it was the fifth-biggest house in Nevada. Friend remembered her sister being married in the house.
Friend recalled the “secret closet” on the third floor where posters of musicians and actors were given proper homage. Before leaving, Friend retraced her steps of sneaking down the back stairs and out the door. She talked about meeting her friends and walking around the base. She remembered being a homecoming princess and the high-school freshmen building a float in the shed.
“This is a really nice place. I’d like to live here again,” said Town, as he completed the tour.