By CMC Monique K. Meeks
Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Public Affairs Office
Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB) and Naval Supply Systems Command, Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville (NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville) held a ribbon cutting ceremony for one of the installation’s fuel piers, Pier Charlie, Feb. 27.
“It’s more than just a fuel pier. It’s a lifeline for the base,” said Capt. Matthew Ott, commanding officer, NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville. “It’s critical not only to sustain today’s operations, but gives us options for tomorrow and decades to come.”
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, one of Guantanamo Bay’s most senior residents, Noel West, was recognized for providing 55 years of civil service in the NAVSUP fuels division working on the original Pier Charlie.
“Many of the operations on this base occur in the background,” said Ott. “Generally, many are invisible to the inhabitants, whether it’s mail or household goods or supplies that arrive on island through a very, very complex network of supply and delivery.”
Ott said that fuels is one of those commodities that we often, at times, take for granted, until, of course, it runs out.
“Whether it’s filling up your personal or work vehicles with gas or providing diesel fuel for power plants to the generator, I hear humming in the background, or to help water plant capacity or capability, supporting air ops with JP-5, fuel is a commodity that we really don’t think about at times, but we rely on, and it needs to be there consistently,” said Ott.
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NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville, Florida; NSGB Site. Capt. Ott, commanding officer, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville poses with Capt. Culpepper, commanding officer U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Cuba; and all the team members that made it possible for Pier Charlie to come to fruition. –photo by R.Vargas
Pier Charlie started serving fuel to the base in the 1920s and continued to do so for more than 80 years until the inspections on the pier pilings showed advanced stages of deterioration. In 2014, a demolition project began so that the new facility could be constructed.
“There are a myriad of activities that have to take place for a project as complex as this one,” said Ott. “It is truly a team effort.”
Since the original pier construction, the population of the base has grown, other missions have arisen, and environmental regulations have come into play. Ott reiterated that the new pier is more than simply a replacement facility. The pier will provide a means to offload or replenish in an efficient manner, and will enable workers to handle multiple types of fuel commodities concurrently. The environment was also taken into account with safety and environmental practices such as containment of potential spills being designed and incorporated into the new Pier Charlie to ensure it is even better than before.
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Commander Navy Region Southeast, Capt. Gil Manalo, Executive Officer Naval Facilities Command Southeast and other officers during the recent Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Cuba, Pier Charlie ribbon cutting ceremony. –photo by R. Vargas
“I can’t underscore the scope and complexity of this Navy military construction project,” said Ott. “Hundreds of thousands of man hours went into the planning, development and execution to make it a reality. It’s easy to look at the finished product and say, ‘Why did it take so long?’ Well, I will tell you what; when you consider the scale of the project ... this finished project is truly a testimony of partnership at all levels.”
Ott was joined by many of these partners at the ribbon cutting and expressed thanks to Navy Region Southeast Chief of Staff Capt. Steve Barnett; Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Commanding Officer Capt. David Culpepper; NAVFAC Southeast Executive Officer Capt Gil Manalo; Defense Logistics Agency Energy Capt. Matt Hollman; Naval Facilities Engineering Command GTMO Public Works Officer Cmdr. Jeff Richer; and NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville GTMO Site Director Cmdr. Shane Dietrich. Ott also thanked specific industry partners, the Public Works Department Project Manager Christine Flora, and the men and women of NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville GTMO fuels department led by Tony Ramirez, have all provided exceptional service and support.
Pier Charlie’s lifecycle is expected to match that of the original pier and provide reliable fuel distribution for decades to come. “Thanks to all who have tread the ground before us, who injected what I would call intellectual fuel to the project,” said Ott. “They had the foresight and the will to make the significant investment payout. It’s a payout in mission preparedness, warfighting capability and capacity, and will sustain mission readiness and service for generations to come.”
Noel West Recognized for Providing 55 Years of Civil Service in the NAVSUP Fuels Division
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NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville, Florida; NSGB Site. Cmdr. Shane Dietrich, Guantanamo Bay Cuba Site Director presents Mr. West with a certificate of appreciation for his 55 years of civil service. Mr. West was instrumental and worked with the fuels department prior to his retirement in 2010. The ribbon cutting ceremony held on February 27, 2018 for the new fuel Pier "Charlie" was dedicated in his honor. –photo by R. Vargas
MC: “Today’s ceremony is dedicated to one of Guantanamo bays finest, Mr. Noel West.
Mr. West faithfully gave 55 years of civil service right here in Guantanamo Bay. This young 85-year-old has seen many changes on this base. When he began work in 1956, the world saw the introduction to Elvis Presley with his first hit – Heartbreak Hotel, and also at this time the Cuban revolutionaries landed in Cuba for the start of the Cuban revolution.
In 1964 Mr. West decided to permanently live on this side of the fence line. Something told him not to go back, and fortunately he listened, because his childhood friend told him that his house had been raided by eight Cuban soldiers that weekend.
When Mr. West was sharing his stories with me he fondly remembered a time in 1967 when he decided to go fishing after work one evening off of pier “Charlie”, now who doesn’t like a good fishing story? He cast his line and soon caught a beautiful red snapper. The only problem was, this was his first time fishing and he didn’t know how to take the fish off the hook, fortunately, a kind Jamaican showed up to help. That was the first and last time Mr. West ever went fishing.
During his time working with fuels division, Mr. West has seen every warship and fuel tanker imaginable come through these waters. As for the work, he says that he has enjoyed everything he has done and is very thankful for having done it. The least enjoyable memory was his retirement, since he wanted to keep on going, but with over 4,000 unused sick leave hours he was told 55 years was enough. Now, the old pier “Charlie” lasted us 80 plus years, and this new pier will take us out for another 80.
Mr. West, we are thankful to have you here today to celebrate with us a new chapter. We thank you for your service and the corporate knowledge you have brought to this fuels department. It is an honor to recognize you at this special ceremony.”