Tale of Two Bases

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A little over two years ago these tanks were making the long run up to Baghdad. They now sit here at the Sierra Army Depot waiting for the next time they are needed. The Abrams tanks, Bradleys and other vehicles began arriving here a year ago.

More are on the way. Here they are cleaned, drained and prepped and lined up row by row. The high desert climate is ideal for this kind of long-term storage. Over the years the Army has found a lot of uses for this sprawling base. It was built in World War II as an ammunition depot and spent most of its history warehousing, shipping and destroying ordnance, but that began to change a decade ago as environmental concerns and a lawsuit by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Tribe targeted open air demolition.

The ammunition was sent elsewhere. Sierra Army Depot began storing and shipping just about everything else a soldier in the field would need. In hindsight, that change may have been a stroke of luck.

Col. Paul Plemmons, Commander of the Sierra Army Depot, says the change positioned the Sierra Army Depot to play an important support role during the War in Iraq. All sorts of supplies left here on a regular basis, some shipped by truck or rail to other departure points, some flown out directly from the base's runway, Amadee Airfield.

Now, plans are underway to extend the airfield's 7,000 foot runway to 10,000 and add a tower and instrument landing equipment, opening the base to all military and commercial cargo aircraft. The military is moving toward an expeditionary logistics center concept which could see a commander in the field ordering and receiving supplies directly from a centralized supply center.

With a bigger, better airfield Sierra is well-situated to fill that role, and essentially did so during the invasion of Iraq.

Plemmons says, “We were sending solar shades, water tanks, field hospitals and doing it in days, so we've proved we can do it.”

Construction will begin this fall and within a year this runway could be a very busy place with all sorts of aircraft landing and taking off in support of military operations around the world.