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Countywide : Naval Weapons Station to Welcome Public Today

October 29, 1994|RUSS LOAR

An estimated 2,000 people are expected to take advantage of a rare public invitation today to pass through the gates of the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station for a glimpse inside the 5,000-acre base.

It's all part of a 50th-anniversary celebration that will culminate Wednesday with a visit by U.S. Navy Secretary John H. Dalton, who is scheduled to take part in an invitation-only cake-cutting ceremony with community leaders.

"I'm here to demystify what's going on here at the station," said base Cmdr. Joel F. Steadley, 41, a former Navy salvage diver who came to the weapons station seven months ago from a Pentagon assignment.

"We're an engineering facility, a maintenance facility and a warehousing facility," he said. "There's nothing evil or wicked that goes on here behind these fences."

The Seal Beach Naval Ammunition and Net Depot opened Nov. 2, 1944, with the primary mission of storing ammunition and repairing steel anti-submarine nets used to block Japanese submarines from entering U.S. harbors.

The weapons station now maintains most of the Navy's surface-to-air missiles and is a supply depot for ammunition ranging from hand grenades to 100-pound shells for Navy warships. The Seal Beach Weapons Station is also the only Naval base on the West Coast that loads Tomahawk surface-to-surface missiles onto warships.

Tours through ammunition storage and missile maintenance buildings will be offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Tours will also include part of the 1,000-acre Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge inside base grounds and the USS Denver, which is docked at the station's loading wharf.

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