Monday, May 09, 2005

The Sound of Freedom

While eating my breakfast this morning my perusal of the morning news was interrupted by the sound of freedom flying overhead.

As I have pointed out several times - Ridgecrest is a small community in the upper Mojave Desert.

So what would make 20,000 people move out here into the middle of nowhere? What would make all these people live in a place where the streets get so hot in the summer that your shoes will stick to the blacktop and grabbing any metal object that has been outside with your bare hands can cause first degree burns?

The answer is work. Our jobs are here. Sure some people live here because they love the desert environment. But a great many live here because they love the work they do, and this is one of the few places in the world where they can do the kind of work they love. So many of us are here because of the largest single employer in the valley. The one company that not only employs around 4000 people but is also the main customer for hundreds of support companies here in town - The United States Navy.

That right, we have right here in the Indian Wells Valley our very own land-locked Navy Base - The Naval Air Warfare Station - China Lake.

The Naval Air Warfare Station - China Lake is the current name of the actual Navy Base. The tenant activity, which does most of the work here, is called the Naval Air Systems Command Weapons Division, or NAVAIR. From 1992 to 2001 it was called The Naval Air Warfare Center - China Lake. From 1967 to 1992 it was called the Naval Warfare Center - China Lake. From it's founding in 1943 until 1967 it was called the Naval Ordnance Test Station - China Lake. Navy managers are always playing around with names. Lately they seem to be intent on removing any sense of history or identity that that place has. Our new names don't include the words China Lake. But to the dedicated people who work here and the residents who live around here the place is and always will be just "China Lake".

Founded in 1943 China Lake has a 62 year record of being the foremost weapons research, design, development, testing and integration facility in the US Navy.

Accomplishements here at China Lake over the last 60 years have included over 100 different missile and rocket programs. In addition to missiles and rockets, China Lake has been made major developments in Chemistry, Physics, Explosives, Soldering, System Engineering and Weapons Integration.

A few of the major advancements you might recognize include the Sidewinder Missile - The most widely used air to air combat missile in the world. Do you remember the pictures from Desert Storm showing the smart bombs point of view as it drops out of the sky and is directed exactly to an intended target? Do your kids play with glow sticks? The chemical luminesence technology at use there came from China Lake.

So what does all this have to do with the Sound of Freedom this morning. This morning I was serenaded during my breakfast by the sound of a military jet passing overhead. This is a very common sound in the valley. Hardly a day goes by that we don't hear military aircraft flying in the area. But it is rarely a bothersome sound; it is the sound of freedom. It is the sound of my co-workers doing weapons testing and/or evaluation. It is the sound of what we do here. It is the sound of the protection of freedom for America and the advancement of freedom for nations who want it by the continued support and advancement of the capabilities of the United States Military.

A pdf brochure about China Lake and the surrounding area can be downloaded here.

A Photographic History of NAF & VX-5 at NOTS China Lake

China Lake

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