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NEWS | July 25, 2012

NMC - Charleston: 'Minding' our own business

By Senior Airman Dennis Sloan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

"Sea mines and the need to counter them have been constants for the U.S. Navy since the earliest days of the Republic ... Today, traditional navies as well as maritime terrorists can and do use mines and Underwater Improvised Explosive Devices to challenge military and commercial use of the seas."

Navy Munitions Command Unit Charleston, at Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station, houses one of only two U.S. Navy mine units in the country, and the only mine unit on the eastern seaboard.

Navy Munitions Command's primary mission is to protect United States national interests and the security of our nation, its citizens and our allies through: providing receipt, storage and issue of ordinance supporting Maritime Prepositioning Force and Afloat Prepositioning Force missions, providing offensive and defensive pre-positioned War Reserve Stock service mines, exercises and training shapes as well as providing research and development projects for mining.

"Here in NMC's mine shop, we are a mix of active-duty, reservists and civilians," said Petty Officer 1st Class William Senseney, NMC team leader and Navy mineman. "My role is to make sure the Sailors here are trained and ready to join the fleet if they are called upon."

The active-duty Sailors in the mine shop are trained to break down and rebuild mines. These Sailors are in a deployable status, ready to report to the fleet at any time, where they will maintain and deploy mines aboard aircraft carriers.

There are also three Navy Reserve units attached to the NMC: NR Mobile Mine Assembly Unit 3 from Seal Beach, Calif., NR MOMAU 8 from Austin, Texas, and NR MOMAU 4 from Albany, N.Y.

"As reservists, we don't deploy to carriers," said Petty Officer 1st Class Ken Lopez, MOMAU 3 leading petty officer. "We stay here at home station and help train new Sailors on mineman duties as well as perform the training ourselves. It makes it easier if the knowledge stays here with us, so there is always someone with years of experience on-hand. The reservists come from all different backgrounds. We have civilian cops, firemen, photographers and the list goes on."

The mine shop is comprised of five departments: refurbishment, service, training and exercise, supply and quality assurance.

"All of the Sailors must know what to do in each section of the shop," said Senseney. "The ultimate goal is to get each of them to the level of quality assurance. Once a Sailor is working in quality assurance, they have reached the top of their field."

The refurbishment shop deals with exercise and training mines that have been in the water for years and need to be water blasted and repainted.

"Some of these training mines have been in the water so long and have dents and cracks in them that they have to be disposed of rather than refurbished," said Senseney.

When a training mine is severely damaged or past its refurbish date, it is used for other training purposes or by Explosive Ordinance Disposal units for their training.

Refurbishing a mine is a multi-step process. The mine will go through water blasting, extreme heat to dry the mine, as well as painting. Then, the interior portion of the mine is inspected to see if there is any water intrusion. If there is, the water will be removed and the gasket seals will be replaced.

"Refurbishing is done on a conveyor in the form of an assembly line," said Senseney. "It takes approximately an hour and a half from start to finish for each mine, which is not very long for how much work we do on each one."

The same procedures apply to actual explosive mines that are used in the fleet.

The unit is constantly training and performing exercises so the Reserve Sailors can hone their skills. The training and exercises also prepare the active-duty Sailors for their deployments to aircraft carriers.

The supply section of the shop accounts for all the mines brought in and out of the shop.

"Some mines are used purely for training purposes and some are in the process of being refurbished and sent to carriers," said Senseney. "Luckily, I have an amazing team of Sailors who keep the mission running seamlessly at all times."

The service side of the house is located in a separate building for safety reasons. The Sailors who work in service perform quality checks on all the mines.

"Ultimately, our mission is deterrence," said Senseney. "If we put one mine in a river, the enemy has to check every inch of it to make sure there are no more. If we delay an enemy's progress for even a day, then we have succeeded."