Sheri Samson Mike McGregor presents Naval Undersea Warfare Center facility director Russ Collier with a 40-year flagpole plaque at a ceremony Sept. 8.

Sheri Samson
Mike McGregor presents Naval Undersea Warfare Center facility director Russ Collier with a 40-year flagpole plaque at a ceremony Sept. 8.

With a sentiment of celebration and honor the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Hawthorne celebrated their 40th year in operation on Sept. 8. Over 40 invited guests, along with dignitaries and guests from the Pacific Northwest division, joined together in a candid spirit of sharing memories from the long-term foundation this facility has continued to build and accomplish in its capabilities of reclamation in the area of military mines and torpedoes.

Facility director, Russ Collier opened the festivities by thanking everyone who made this Hawthorne center a success. Acknowledging a table full of historic pictures, along with newspaper clippings documenting the historic life of the operations, Collier attributed the legacy of such a place with applause for the many retirees which attended.

Guest speaker Tom Lacey presented an overview of the evolution in which the depot’s underground mine systems eventually included the necessity of becoming an ordnance storage facility by storing end-of-life materials and included a refurbishing system to reclaim precious metals by using appropriate methods to secure the highly sensitive materials through proper disposal and designated recycling.

Lacey stated, “Hawthorne has served and continues to serve the fleets and our civilian customers. This facility is strong within a network of locations and will continue on its planned course to serve.”

Al Kent, another representative from the Northwest Division echoed his sentiments of the facilities significance and how the Hawthorne Detachment has grown to serve the Navy community as well as the sub-servicing necessary within the field.

The most notable speaker was the newly appointed Captain Doug Lacoste, who’s recent arrival was just four months ago. In his opening speech Lacoste referred to the facility, using his Georgia accent in pronouncing his new assignment as being in “Knee-VA-Duh”. With an emphasis on using a long first syllable of “E’s” he was greeted by a room full of soft chuckles and a ribbing from the crowd as long timers corrected his pronunciation of Nevada. As everyone laughed it off, he admitted he had been practicing the correct way to say it but his nerves pulled him back into his southern speaking roots.

Lacoste seriously expressed his awe in the many awards the facility had accomplished in the areas of environment and service. As part of a national network, this was a branch which served the fleet well. Using the quote, “Damn the torpedo, full speed ahead” which was originally spoken by Admiral David Farragut in the Battle of Mobile Bay, Lacoste stated that his own thrust would be to continue the current life cycle of the facility while staying current with the new technology of sensors and other unmanned vehicles yet to be produced. With six deployments over his 20-year career and extensive below ground service within submarines, he shared that he knew what a small facility was all about.

“This is a community – a family. In such proximity you work closely together and learn to know one another differently than those on the outside. I want you to know I understand that sense of responsibility and commitment.”

There were three presentations given as Mike McGregor presented Collier with an engraved flagpole plaque to note the 40-year accomplishment. Craig Reed was awarded with his ten-year pin and certificate as he currently serves as an inventory officer, as Carrie Kenton received her 15-year pin and certificate as production controller.

Following a cake reception and small facility tour, the Northwest guests were taken to tour Hawthorne’s Ordnance Museum and the USO Convention Center. An evening dinner was held at the Walker Lake Golf Course to complete the celebration.