JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Joint Base Charleston has a long history of participating in national and local military operations, causing a constant flux in the service members and civilian personnel carrying out the mission. However, one resident on the installation has seen it all since the 1960's.
Charlie the alligator, who weighs an estimated 600 pounds and is more than 12 feet long, has been stationed here since the base was the U.S. Army Ordnance Depot. Later the depot became the Naval Weapons Station, and is now JB Charleston - Weapons Station.
"Charlie, a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources permitted captive alligator, is the unofficial mascot of the Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station," said Terrence Larimer, the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron Natural and Cultural Resources Manager. "He's not the longest alligator I've seen but he is a very heavy and stocky alligator."
Although no one really knows for sure how long Charlie has been here or how old he is, former employees of the Army Ammo Depot said he was put into his pond in the early 60's when he was three-to-four feet long, Larimer commented.
Rumor has it, Charlie was named after Pier Charlie at the JB Charleston - WS, where he was found during a construction project.
Charlie's Place, the name of his pond, was renovated in 2011 and is actually a storm water retention pond which measures nearly half an acre. The area acts as a relief for flooding during heavy rains. The pond is surrounded by a 6-foot tall fence and is reinforced with rebar.
Lt. Col. Brennan, 628th CES commander, said ""Our engineers regularly inspect the fence there, along with all fence lines on JB Charleston, to ensure they are secure. This is part of our regular preventive maintenance program."
Charlie shares his place with his better half and numerous offspring.
"Charlie seems to be happy in there and he can't escape," Larimer said. "Charlie's Place is visited by many base patrons as well as people who are from out of state or out of town. We take people to see Charlie because he is the "go to guy" for people wanting to see an alligator...and he is an impressive alligator."
Charlie and his family are fed by JB Charleston Volunteer Game Wardens who provide them with meals consisting mainly of the remains of animals found by the roadside. According to Larimer, Charlie will eat almost anything including hamburgers, chicken fingers and sandwiches.
Although Charlie may not be a picky eater, please refrain from feeding him.
While Charlie's Place is a safe place to see a gator from outside the reinforced fence-line, it is important to note, Joint Base Charleston is home to over 100 wild alligators which live in the waterways of the installation.
"Alligators in the wild should not be fed because it is against state law," added Larimer. "And they can associate humans with food and become aggressive towards people."
Exploring the base or enjoying the outdoors can lead to an unintended encounter with an alligator and Larimer recommends using caution. "Alligators less than four feet are typically not large enough to be dangerous to people but shouldn't let children or dogs play near the edge of ponds especially in the evening or early morning when alligators are most active," Larimer recommended. "We have a base nuisance wildlife team that is properly trained and equipped to handle alligators who are aggressive or in someone's back yard."
Additionally, personnel and their families should be aware that alligators have been spotted in other areas on the installation away from water.
To increase awareness of Charlie's Place, a sign posted outside the fence has been replaced.
"On June 21, 2016, Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston's industry department, with the help of sign shop supervisor Wes Atkinson, redesigned and replaced Charlie's sign at JB Charleston - Weapons Station. The sign hadn't been replaced since 1991," said Daryl Greenway, Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston shared services officer.
Visiting Charlie, who is known as the Officer in Charge of Complaints, can make for an afternoon of fun; but, all joking aside, Larimer reminds people to be safe.
"Stay out of the enclosure and keep a safe distance from the fence," Larimer said. "Charlie may be one of the senior residents of JB Charleston, but he certainly can still be dangerous."
If you spot a dangerous animal on base and it presents an imminent threat, contact the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron customer help desk at 963-2392.