It was March 25th, 2015, a cold, windy, rainy day when thirty plus dedicated Navy League members gathered in the parking lot of the Naval Undersea Museum Keyport to attend a special tour of SWFPAC on Naval Base Kitsap Bangor. Our tour guide, Danise Barnes from SWFPAC, had us board the Navy bus and checked us in to view SWFPAC, the best-of-its-kind facility dedicated to the safety, security, readiness, and reliability of every TRIDENT II D5 missile produced and issued to allow our submarine fleet to maintain our nation’s strategic deterrent capability.
Enroute to SWFPAC we stopped by SWFPAC Headquarters and picked up the Commanding Officer, Captain Mike Baretela, who led us on the tour.
We then adjourned to the parking lot where the Marine Corps Security Force Battalion Bangor had put on a display of two of their armored vehicles. Security for SWFPAC and the Bangor waterfront is provided by Marine Corps Security Force Battalion. The service, commitment and professionalism of this guard force make them an essential member of “Team SWFPAC.”
Our group then was transported to the newest missile assembly building at Bangor where the Navy and contractors from Lockheed Martin perform missile construction and refurbishment. This is one of only two locations in the country capable of this task. They were working on two missiles inside, actually missile simulators as they were checking out new equipment and installation procedures on inert shapes without ordnance. If they were working on actual missiles we wouldn’t have been allowed to enter the facility. The missiles, weighing over140,000 lbs each, were sitting on metal pallets. When the workers want to move them, the pallets are filled with compressed air which raises the missile a fraction of an inch from the ground and these huge, heavy, missiles sections can be moved around the facility by hand. Everything about this missile and the handling of it is amazing. It’s interesting to note that there have been 157 test firing of these massive rockets over the years, and 155 of the firings were an absolute success. A great record when you consider how many parts have to work together and at the right time.
We then moved to the Explosives Handling Wharf (EHW). At this location, the Wharf Officer explained how the EHW allows the missiles to be removed or loaded on the SSBN’s at this facility. The EHW is a large covered area over the water where workers can load or unload the missiles from the submarine in a weather protected atmosphere. We also got a chance to see the new Explosives Handling Wharf #2 under construction next to the current EHW. This $750M dollar project is coming in under budget, and with great care for the local environment. When it is completed it will allow for greater flexibility in future operations, as the current facility is almost continuously in use.
This tour was arranged by Navy League member and tour organizer Byron Faber. We are very grateful to Captain Baretela for the opportunity to tour this vital facility and view this complex activity up close. Another great tour with the Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Navy League Council – George Rose