End of an Era

The 1990s

“Cheney announces base closure plan" read the headline from the April 17, 1991 issue of Hoist. Citing the need to adjust the number of military bases as the size of the nation's armed forces is reduced, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney recommended closing 31 major and 12 minor U.S. defense facilities and reducing or realigning forces at 28 others. NTC was not listed at this time.

However, less than one month later, the training centers in San Diego and Orlando, Fla., were added to the closure list. The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BCRC) was assigned to review Cheney's list and made its own recommendations to President George Bush.

On July 5, 1991 BCRC announced their decision to remove both training centers and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego from the list. The BCRC's unanimous vote to delete NTC from the closure list came on a motion by Commissioner Howard (Bo) Callaway, who visited the San Diego facilities with fellow Commissioner Robert Stuart Jr.

The commission was impaneled to make recommendations for savings to the government during the drawdown. However, all was not firm. The commission recommended that the 1993 BCRC consider realigning RTC San Diego to another location. President George Bush approved the recommendation to allow both NTC and MCRD in San Diego to remain open.

By July 2, 1993, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) voted unanimously to recommend closing both NTC San Diego and Orlando. The committee recommended to relocate personnel, equipment and support to NTC Great Lakes and other locations consistent with training requirements. President Bill Clinton approved the list and forwarded it to Congress, who later approved the president's and BRAC's recommendations.

The first BRAC coordinator was Lt. Cmdr. Bob Citrano, NTC's staff civil engineer. By December, 1993, the Seabees began to close the Camp Nimitz buildings. The once heard echoes of recruits marching to cadence was replaced by the hammering of boards on windows and then the sounds of silence in darkened buildings.

Once NTC's closure was official, the question remained as to what would happen to the base and who would get the buildings. San Diego Mayor Susan Golding formed a task force to recommend what should be done with NTC's prime real estate. One suggestion was the expansion of Lindbergh Field airport runway into Camp Nimitz. Another was using a portion of Camp Nimitz's barracks for San Diego's homeless. A third possibility was transforming a portion of the property into Navy housing.

On July 1, 1996, the San Diego City Council, headed by Golding, met at NTC's Support Center to vote on the base's future. More than 900 people gathered to decide what uses should be recommended for Camp Nimitz. The council decided to delay their decision for two weeks. By July 17, a decision was made. In 5-4 vote, the City council approved a plan to establish a Regional Public Safety institute on land the Port District wanted at Camp Nimitz. The Port District received 19 acres of land for airport expansion; the remainder would be for recreation, education, and commerce.

As of September, 1996, talks were underway to allow the Port District 47 acres by building part of the public safety institute at another location.

NTC established a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) to identify environmental issues. Phil Dyck, NTC's BRAC Environmental Coordinator, outlined the Fast Track Cleanup portion of President Clinton's five-part plan to speed up the turnover of NTC property to the city. Some environmental issues were the least tern nesting area on Camp Nimitz and the Navy's Installation Restoration and Underground Storage Tanks. NTC received $282,000 to remove polluted soil at Camp Nimitz and in underground tanks near the Navy Exchange gas station. In the meantime, unoccupied buildings were being boarded up. Some buildings were used by outside organizations on an interim basis.

One building was the new 32-stall small arms range built in October, 1992, to replace the outdated B-range. In the new range, Sailors could certify on anything from .177 caliber to .45 caliber pistols to .12-gauge shotguns. The small arms range had many improvements including brighter range lighting, and target lighting at three, seven, 15 and 25 yardlines. The new range included an armory and work area, lounge classrooms, offices and a bunkroom.

When Camp Nimitz closed, the small arms range was run by the Navy Special Warfare Unit. The San Diego Police Department also utilized the facilities on an interim basis.

The Fire Fighting Training facility next to the small-arms range was used on an interim basis by the San Diego Fire Department.

The San Diego Food Bank moved into an empty 23,000 square-foot warehouse at NTC on Sept. 6, 1994. The move allowed the food bank to operate rent-free during the base closure process.

During all the base closure discussions, NTC was once again runner-up for the CNO Bronze Hammer Award for fiscal year 1992. Meanwhile, all the clubs on base began consolidating. The clubs, located in building 193, moved to a new location in the Blue Jacket Plaza at the Bowling Center complex, building 85. The Ship's Bell and Glitterdome closed Aug. 1, 1993; the Desert Cove closed Sept. 24; and the Country Club closed Sept. 25. The last official all-hands club "Borderz" opened on Nov. 1, 1993 in building 85 and closed on June 15, 1996.

A new state-of-the-art Branch Medical-Dental Clinic opened on May 6, 1994 providing a twist of irony to the closing facilities. The clinic was 95,000 square feet and cost $14.3 million to construct.

Meanwhile, Naval Training Station, which was established in 1986 as a support services command, was disestablished on July 1, 1991, in a brief ceremony at Inqram Plaza. The ceremony marked the consolidation of the NTS mission with NTC, and was in no way associated with the ongoing base closure process. In 1992, Cmdr. John Sohl Ill, NTS's last executive officer and NTC's first assistant chief of staff for base operations, retired at the Rose Garden behind building 200.

R TC paused recruit training for several months for rephasing of boot camp. During the 2,013th pass-in-review, company 014, was the last company to graduate on Dec. 20, 1991 before shutting down training for three months. The rephasing was a temporary measure to adjust for the unusually high retention in the Navy and to reduce the total number of personnel by 20,000 for fiscal year 1992, without resorting to involuntary separations.

Before the rephasing began, RTC had 3,455 recruits and 616 apprenticeship trainees on board, along with 470 military and civilian staff personnel. Recruits who were in boot camp at that time completed their eightweek training. The staff personnel had the opportunity to attend professional Navy training courses, conduct curriculum reviews, refurbish spaces as needed or take holiday leave.

After Sept. 30, 1993, RTC no longer accepted recruits,

due to base closure. The last recruits reported to RTC and graduated in final pass-in-review on Nov. 19, 1993 Company 215 was the last company a group of seven companies comprising 429 Sailors to graduate in the 2,082nd and final ceremony. The reviewing officer was Vice Adm. Robert K. U. Kihune, chief of Naval Education and Training. Seaman Apprentice P. J. Walstad Jr. was the recipient of the Navy League Division Honor Recruit award and outstanding recruit for company 215.

For 69 years, recruits trained under the guidance of male Sailors. On Oct, 2, 1992, three woman graduated from company commander school qualifying them to train an allmale recruit company. The three women were Quartermaster 1st Class (SIV) Diana S. Simmons, Chief Hull Technician (SW) Jackie A. Troedel and Master Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (AW) Vivian Erb.

Assigning female company commanders to male recruits (or male company commanders to female recruits in Orlando, Fla.) was not a new concept to the Navy. RTC Orlando conducted mixed gender training for more than two years and mixed gender companies since February, 1992. RTC Greg Lakes also followed suit with female company commanders. San Diego was the last to incorporate females in an effort to expand the growing opportunties for women in the Navy.

Company Commander school was a six-week course which prospective candidates needed to complete before receiving the "red rope" designating them a company commander.

From July 31 to Aug. 4, 1990, three Soviet Navy ships - guided missle destroyers Admiral Vinogradov and Boyevoy and the oiler Argun – visited San Diego. More than 800 Soviet crew members met "with American Sailors.

Soviet Sailors ate dinner at the galley on Aug. 2 and the next day NTC hosted a delegation of Soviet Naval Officers during recruit graduation on Aug. 3. Admiral Charles R. Larson, Commander-in-chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet served as reviewing officer and his Soviet counterpart, Admiral Gennadly Alexandrovich Khvatov, commander of the Soviet Pacific Ocean Fleet, was guest of honor.

Another poignant event occurred in 1991 when "The Moving Wall", a half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. went on display at Ingram Plaza.

The wall was sponsored by General Dynamics and the Seawolf Association. The Seawolves of Task Force 116 was the nickname of Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron Three. The squadron flew cover for river patrol boats in the "Brown Water navy' on the Mekong Delta and worked closely with Navy SEALS. The Seawolves were instrumental in scheduling the memorial to be displayed at NTC.

The Moving Wall was conceived, designed and built by John Devitt, Gerry Haver and Norris Shears, three Vietnam Veterans. The first wall was completed in 1984, and this was the first time it appeared at NTC.

The Moving Wall spanned 250 feet in length across Ingram Plaza and contained a chronological list of 58,175 names of veterans killed, taken prisoner or unaccounted for in Vietnam.

NTC was awarded the Capt. Edward F. Ney Memorial Award for food service excellence in the large ashore category for 1990. The food service division was the third largest in the Navy operating three galleys and supporting BOOST, RTC, SSC and Fleet ASW. In 1990, the three galleys averaged 6,445,000 meals per year.

NTC celebrated its 70th anniversary with a huge gathering on Lawrence Court. There was a sidewalk fair with a picnic, a magician, souvenirs and a classic car and fire engine display. The Hoist newspaper and old center photographs were displayed along with memorabilia from the MCRD museum. San Diego County Munici-pal Judge Larry W. Stirling was the guest speaker at the 70th anniversary program.

The Chid Development Center (CDC), which opened a brand new facility in building 619 on March 16, 1992, was among the first day care centers in the Navy to be accredited by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs. To become accredited, NTC's Child Development Center

had to meet a variety of strict criteria related to providing activities appropriate for young children. This criteria included having well-qualified and trained staff and an adequate number of staff for the number of children. The CDC had to meet stringent health and safety standards, and was required to allow opportunities for parental involvement. The accreditation process included an on-site study of the program and review by a three-member national commission. The new CDC had 272 children, more than three times the capacity of the old center, and served children six weeks to five years old.

Secretary of the Navy H. Lawrence Garrett III, a 1961 graduate of San Diego's boot camp, returned almost 30 years later to witness the graduation of his son, H. Lawrence Garrett IV. The younger Garrett was recognized as the outstanding recruit of his company during graduation on Aug. 24, 1990.

On Sept. 6, 1991, after 68 years of graduation ceremonies, NTC held its 2,000 ceremony. Rear Adm. Ronald Zlatoper, commander, Carrier Group Seven, was the reviewing officer and retired Vice Adm. James Stockdale, was the guest of honor. Six companies totalling 471 Sailors graduated. Seaman Recruit Todd L. Scott of company 206, received the Navy League Outstanding Recruit Award.

RTC opened a small museum in the headquarters building 328. The Midway Room housed a variety of artifacts from the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41), which was decommissioned April 11, 1992. The artifacts included the carrier's signal flags, a mock bridge display containing the ship's navigational equipment, the ribbon plaque which had been displayed on the ship's bridge and the "Airboss Sword" used during change of command ceremonies. The Midway Room augmented the POW/MIA museum at NTC. When RTC formally decommissioned, the Midway Room artifacts were sent to the Marine Corps Museum at MCRD San Diego.

NTC marked the 50th anniversary at North Chapel on June 7, 1992 with a service and picnic. More than 100 San Diego-area retired chaplains attended the ceremony. One year later, recruits held worship services in a new building designed to accommodate 2,000 people. Building 623, a 30,000 square-foot facility, held its first service on July 11, 1993.

A new program formed at NTC in 1994. The National Civilian Community Corps. (NCCC) was a select group of young people designed to provide service to the community". The dedication ceremony was held on September 9 at Ingram Plaza. Its precursor was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The Peace Corps was formed in the 1960s to help others abroad, but NCCC was a domestic program. The NCCC focused on environment, human needs, education and public safety.

The Drug Education for Youth (DEFY), a comprehensive program that teaches drug prevention and leadership to children, began at NTC Aug. 26, 1994. Aimed at 9 to 12-year-olds, DEFY also emphasized good citizenship, setting goals, communication and accepting challenges. NTC Sailors served as teachers to the children during a two-week camp and continued as mentors throughout the year. The first program coordinator was the Public Affairs Officer, Lt. Patrick J. Dennison. DEFY continued through 1996.

Luce Auditorium received new movie equipment in November, 1990. The auditorium was equipped with a new state-of-the-art 16 mm movie projector that produced a picture three times brighter and clearer than the old system. The projector, costing $13,000, was purchased with nonappropriated funds and replaced an outdated projector that was no longer manufactured.

The commissary underwent a $1.2 million facelift during six months of renovation in 1991. The renovation featured structural and electrical upgrades, new cash registers and fixtures, easier handicapped access and 163 new parking spaces. A greater variety of merchandise was added with almost 3,000 square feet of additional selling area. The improvements increased sales at the commissary by 25 percent to $920,000 monthly.

Following the renovation, the commissary became a part of the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) joining 420 other commissaries. By then, the commissary served more than 25,000 retired Point Loma military personnel, dependents and active duty Sailors.

The world's largest knot was presented to NTC by retired Chief Boatswain's Mate Glenn E. O'Neal. The knot was displayed in building 200 in the center commander's cabin encased in a hardwood frame with a masonite and royal blue Formica background. The knot was designed in the shape of an anchor, had 1,605 tucks and was tied with a single 320-foot 3/16 nylon line. It took O'Neal more than 1,000 hours to complete. The knot was 52 inches high and 39 inches wide.

By the end of 1996, NTC resembled a ghost town. Unused buildings were boarded up. Access to the Camp Nimitz bridge was gated. Service Schools were closed or relocated to other installations. The functions of the galley and the Admiral Kidd Club were turned over to Fleet ASW Base. NCCC was in its third year, but NTC was nearing its final months of life, looking toward its disestablishing ceremony on March 21, 1997.

 

On to the 2000s and the future

1