Sierra Army Depot plans to hire up to 250 new employees in the next three years
Presenting the video at the Tuesday, Nov. 28 Lassen County Board of Supervisors meeting, Sierra Commander Lt. Col. Brian Butler said “you all are probably some of the first ones to see this.”
After showing the eight-minute video completed two months ago, Butler presented a command briefing to give the board an idea of current programs and missions and those planned in the next two or three years, including hiring up to 250 new employees.
Sierra is distributing the video on the East Coast and throughout the Department of Defense, “just to give folks an idea of what we do,” Butler said, adding the depot has to attract any business it receives.
“It might seem kind of strange for some folks, but the Army and the depots within the Army, we actually do have to market our own wares,” Butler said.
As Sierra’s Public Information Officer Lori McDonald cued up the video, District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson explained Sierra’s importance.
“There’s more commerce that goes in and out of that base than all the rest of the county combined,” Hanson said. “I think sometimes it sits down there as a good silent neighbor but periodically it’s good to advertise a little bit of what they do.”
The video promotes Sierra as “the center for industrial and technical excellence for operational project stocks, long-term storage and Army supply operations.”
Located on 36,000 acres of high desert terrain, Sierra provides “ample space, low humidity and low precipitation. Equipment and material stored here can last indefinitely without significant deterioration,” the video said.
Sierra also offers state-of-the-art industrial shops that repair, modify and fabricate all kinds of equipment, “from basic single-axle trailers to complex, reverse-osmosis water purification systems.”
Butler said Sierra’s mission has changed significantly in the last five years due to the Base Realignment and Closure process.
“We were primarily an ammunition storage depot and we’re no longer in that business,” he said. “We still have some ammunition that’s on the ground that we’re moving out in accordance with BRAC, but once that’s gone Sierra has capabilities that are unique throughout the department of defense.”
BRAC 2005 directed Sierra to get out of the ammo business, Butler said. Its net effect was to realign “12 ammunition specific jobs into other places on the depot,” he said. Butler said all the ammo will be moved out by 2010.
“As far as people-wise, we’re actually growing, we’re not shrinking,” he said.
Butler said Sierra is trying to become the location to store and supply Army ground systems equipment.
“It’s no secret that the Army is pretty taxed right now in dealing with the issues in Afghanistan and Iraq and we’re major contributors to that war effort,” he said. “Our mission statement pretty much lays out what we do: long-term storage of supplies and equipment and also what we call COSAEIS, care of supplies and equipment in storage.
"Many people don’t realize just how unique Sierra is. No other Army depot has Sierra’s capabilities, including an airfield, a 60-mile rail network with its own locomotives and access on the north and south to Union Pacific main lines and access to major road networks.
“In fact my predecessor, Col. Paul Plemmons, actually deployed from Sierra Army Depot, loaded some medical supplies into an air force C-5 aircraft and took off and actually landed in Iraq to deliver those supplies right to the unit,” Butler said.
“There’s nothing that the Army has in its inventory that they could push in here that we would not be able to unload within just a matter of hours,” he said. “You see we have the 240-ton crane that picks up tanks and everything else that the Army’s got and sets them on the ground. It’s just absolutely ideal for the storage mission that we’ve got out there.”
Sierra is also storing excess material from Afghanistan, Europe and Iraq. It then makes the equipment available for reuse.
Storage is expanding “because we’ve got the European theater that’s drawing down and eventually we’ll manage to get ourselves out of Iraq and Afghanistan and all of those things will come into Sierra,” Butler said, adding he expects to receive 1,200 additional tanks this year.
Other storage facilities charge $.67 a cubic foot for storage but Sierra charges only for receipt and reloading. So far, Sierra has saved the Army more than $10 million.
Sierra also has 799 earth-covered igloos that are only 32 percent filled with munitions and will be empty by 2010.
With 30,000 buildable acres, “We can always accept more,” Butler said.
Sierra currently has 600 employees. Within six months, Butler said he anticipates hiring up to 125 more. And when the surge of 150,000 20- and 40-foot- shipping containers currently in the field begin arriving, he said Sierra may hire up to 125 more.
The depot may then employ 750 people. Butler said Sierra will hire them incrementally so that “we don’t bring folks on and lay them off again.”
District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman said the county does not have enough housing for the new employees.
Butler said one-third of the Sierra workforce lives in the Reno area and Sierra’s biggest problem in recruiting is the drive time from Susanville or Reno.
“Lassen County rural bus has been absolutely great for us. We’re looking at the same thing from Reno. But of course, if the county is able to get some additional development closer to the base it would help us all,” Butler said.
Hanson reminded the board Butler will rotate out of the Sierra command this summer and a new commander will rotate in. Hanson said it’s been a distinct pleasure to work with Butler. He added it’s important to protect the base from further encroachment and maintain it’s 30,000 buildable acres.
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