TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Some 230 Navy enlisted members and 30 officers are temporarily residing at Travis Air Force Base, California, while their ship, the USS Emory S. Land (AS 39), undergoes scheduled maintenance to the deck, turbines, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at Mare Island in Vallejo, California.
The Land is a submarine tender assigned to Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. The ship, and its sister ship, the USS Frank Cable, provide expeditionary intermediate level maintenance and repairs, hotel services and logistical support to submarines and surface ships in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.
The crew arrived at Travis in June and will reside on base until early September, said Navy Lt. Daniel Moore, the ship’s judge advocate and public affairs officer. The Land’s homeport is Guam.
“We are the first Navy ship to dock at Mare Island since the base closed in 1996,” said Moore. “Normally, we would dock near an active duty shipyard since we are required to provide rations for our enlisted members.”
Since Travis is the nearest active duty military installation, Navy and Air Force officials signed a memorandum of understanding allowing enlisted members to reside in two vacant dormitories on base and mess in the dining facility. The officers are billeted in the Westwind Inn on base.
“Securing the dormitory accommodations on Travis has provided the Navy with a significant convenience and cost savings versus the alternative of staying in hotels dispersed throughout the Bay area, which would have also raised logistical and force protection concerns,” said Matthew Foster, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron housing management chief.
The 60th CES spent more than 500 man-hours repairing hot water boilers and air conditioning systems and replacing and cleaning carpets to make the 150 dormitory rooms in buildings 1331 and 1332 ready for the sailors, said Foster. Both dormitories had been recommended for demolition.
“We saved a lot of money by doing the work in-house,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Hicks, 60th CES unaccompanied housing management superintendent. “It was a massive team effort.”
Hicks explained that a group of 15 Sailors assisted with the project.
“The Navy also purchased additional furniture, including beds, mattresses, refrigerators and microwave sets, chairs and televisions for the dorms,” said Hicks.
The coordination across the 60th Mission Support Group is “a testament of Travis Air Force Base's ability to quickly organize, coordinate, and stand-up a contingency housing operation on short notice,” said Foster.
For example, the 60th Force Support Squadron extended breakfast and dinner hours to accommodate the Land’s crew who are standing watch aboard the ship in 12-hour shifts.
“We started opening at 5 a.m. to make sure they have a hot meal before departing for the ship,” said Master Sgt. Derick Westfall, 60th FSS Sustainment Flight Services chief. “We have to be flexible with the evening meal because they come back in waves. And, sometimes the traffic is backed up on (Interstate) 80.”
Westfall said their biggest challenge was providing hot lunches and the midnight meal for those aboard the ship.
“Unless they go downtown, there’s no place nearby to eat so, for the first 10 days, we prepared boxed meals,” said Westfall. “Now, we’ve worked out a system to send hot food.”
The Navy contributed to the solution, said Westfall.
“We have a staff of 40, but we didn’t have to bring in help since the Navy offered up a couple people to help package their meals, transport them to the ship and make sure we get the containers back,” said Westfall. “Since they are all on meal cards, the Navy provides people to make sure everyone signs in for their meals on the ship.
“We’ve developed a very close relationship with the Navy so we know how many meals to prepare each day,” he said. “With 100 to 150 Sailors and all the cadets here for the summer, we’re feeding about 330 more people per day.”
The Land’s complement normally is 800 people, including 150 civilian mariners. Although the ship is commanded by a Navy captain, civilians provide navigation, deck operations, hull maintenance, engineering, galley and steward services and supply functions, said Moore.
While the Land is in California, the rest of its crew are serving at their homeport or temporarily on the Cable, said Moore. The members at Travis will be here until early September.
“I don’t have the numbers but, it makes sense economically for us to stay at Travis,” said Moore. “We’re grateful for the accommodations. We’re really impressed with the (fitness center).”