Heidi Bunch Lt. Col. Gregory Gibbons answers questions at the Hawthorne Army Depot Town Hall meeting.

Heidi Bunch
Lt. Col. Gregory Gibbons answers questions at the Hawthorne Army Depot Town Hall meeting.

In a small town hall meeting, Lt. Col. Gregory Gibbons met with interested Mineral County residents who had questions regarding the Hawthorne Army Depot.

Gibbons highlighted areas at the depot, which have had or will have a positive effect on Mineral County. He explained that the depot has assigned the ranges to the Nevada National Guard in a memo of understanding.

He explained that this summer, Nevada Department of Wildlife stocked the Rose Creek Reservoir. There are 250 fish, approximately, left.

The boy scouts have been using the Captain Cabin at Rose Creek and have camped at the area. Only troops from Fallon have camped there. Gibbons said that next year, the cabin should be up for rent to the public for weekend getaways.

Another big item in the news has been the sage grouse controversy. He informed the audience that the Secretary of the Interior came own and announced that the Bi-State Sage Grouse was not on the endangered list. With ten percent of the sage grouse in Mineral County at the base (approximately 350 on Mt. Grant) this is a positive ruling for Mineral County.

He explained that the base is 85 years old and in the earlier years, the base was not as kind to the environment as it could have been, including Walker Lake and Whiskey Flats. The Corps of Engineers does clean-up efforts at base sites. Most bases are used to head off to war or to get soldiers ready for war. Hawthorne Army Depot went to the Corps of Engineers.

“We explained, instead of paying them [clean-up contractors] to stay in hotels, as a good steward of money, the government staff will manage the contracts and get rid of the ammunition ourselves. We have been cleaning up the south end of Walker Lake. SOC has employed six additional EOD staff,” Gibbons explained. He went on to further state that he has applied for a $2 million Whiskey Flats project and will find out in December if the project is chosen.

Gibbons explained the ARMS program that leases buildings, equipment or land owned by the base to companies. Right now, Pyrospectacular Fireworks, a company that does firework displays for such events as the Superbowl is now using the base for their operations.

Another business will be drones in and around the base airspace. These drones will be used for such items as testing sensors on railroad tracks or delivering packages to the old Connelly housing district.

Talks are also underway with a $2.5 billion a year company that deals with rockets. The contract would be a life-cycle agreement.

Gibbons laughed and said, “We are really good at disposing of rockets.” On the subject of the rockets, he said, “If you don’t reach out for it – nothing is going to happen.”

The colonel at the end of the meeting initiated a question and answer period. Questions such as “Will the government be placing elk on Mt. Grant?”; “Will the base be storing hazardous material?”; “Will the base be thinning the wild horse herd at the lake”; “Would Mineral County respond to a mercury spill at the base?” and “Will the Nevada Air National Guard be using fuel from the county airport?”

Gibbons had an open and honest question and answer period on the above questions. The biggest question he was asked is, “What do you like about Hawthorne?”

He responded, “Looking at Mt. Grant, the closeness to Yosemite and Mammoth. You can’t beat the job or the people here. This is an important town and the base understands our mission. The country is tired of war, but if war happens again, the Hawthorne Army Depot will be either number one or two on the list to ship out ammo. From here, there will need to be 800,000 tones of ammunition a week shipped. It is important that the people know their roles in the defense of this country. As the commander of this base, I can’t call a congressman and push for business [in town], but as citizens, you can. Push to have businesses invited out.”

Gibbons only has eight months left in his assignment at the depot. In June, he will hand over the reigns to his replacement. Until then, Gibbons continues to ensure that Hawthorne Army Depot runs smoothly.