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Ventura County Roundup | WEST COUNTY / PORT HUENEME

Navy Hosts Portion of Army Desert Test

November 15, 1998|MASSIE RITSCH

The Army's 101st Airborne Division was in Ventura County this weekend, testing its ability to move equipment for a desert training exercise that will continue near Barstow in the coming weeks.

On Saturday, 1,500 Army personnel began unloading 63 Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, along with 260 trucks and other vehicles, from the Navy cargo ship Cape Henry. Today, the helicopters will fly to Point Mugu Naval Air Station for fueling, before heading to the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, near Barstow.

The exercise will simulate warfare in a desert environment, said Lt. Col. Marc Brodeur, battalion commander of the 101st Airborne, based at Ft. Campbell, Ky.

Saturday's operation, called a Sea Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise, was a test of whether the military can move its equipment to a war zone quickly and efficiently.

"You can't have a successful team if you can't win on the road," Brodeur said. "What we're showing here is our ability to get the show to the game and do it successfully."

Brodeur added that the transport and combat exercises were planned as long as a year ago, and were unrelated to any threat of conflict with Iraq.

As the only Navy-owned deep-water port between San Diego and Seattle, Port Hueneme and the Naval Construction Battalion Center were able to accommodate the Army's transport exercise. The last similar exercise at the base was in 1982.

"It's one of the largest, if not the largest, transport exercises we've had here at CBC," Public Affairs Officer Teri Reid said.

The naval base housed and fed the Army's 1,500 active and reserve soldiers, and provided other support for the exercise. The Army will reimburse the CBC for its costs, estimated at $640,000.

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