Commander of Navy Region Southwest Retires
The Commander of the Navy in San Diego, Admiral Len Hering, retires this week. Hering has been in charge of all naval operations in the Southwest for the past four years. He has a lot to say about the need for the military to promote sustainability and to become a better employer.
I asked him how much the fleet in San Diego Bay has expanded in the last four years.
HERING: We’ve seen a significant increase in the course of the last four years. The Ingleside Texas minesweeping capability has all moved here. We’ve seen two cruisers, there destroyers, three submarines, a number of commands. And over the course of the next couple of years, we’ll see a third aircraft carrier come to Coronado next year. We’ll see three new helicopter squadrons coming, the first thirteen of the Navy’s littoral combat ships home ported here in San Diego.
ASJ: The littoral ships, that’s these new smaller faster vessels?
HERING: They’re designed to operate throughout the vast oceans of the world, but they’re specifically designed to operate in the littoral areas when we have to maintain maritime dominance.
ASJ: You’ve said that in order to maintain a strong volunteer military, the U.S. Department of Defense has to become a better employer. What do you mean by that?
HERING: We have to recognize that the conscript mentality that we grew up in, that our parents grew up in, will not sustain an all-volunteer force, if we are not more respectful of those who chose to serve. They are not assets, ships and airplanes are assets, the personnel who employ them are not assets, they’re resources. They’re precious, they’re my son, they’re somebody’s father or mother.
ASJ :Can you give us some specific examples of the way the Navy has become a better employer in the last four years?
HERING: In the last four years? Sure, Pacific Beacon is one perfect example…we’ve modeled our housing for taking care of our single sailors. Take a look at the housing at N.T.C. If you drive through Murphy Canyon or Tierrasanta, or any of those other places, you know when I was base commanding officer, I apologized to the tenants of many of our housing areas because of the conditions they had to live in. I was embarrassed. Today none of those facilities exist, every one of them has been leveled and they’re all living in new houses. And it’s not a handout, they get money in their pay and they pay rent. But recognize that they move six or seven times in their career, we need to pay attention to their kids and their medical care and their schools. I have hundred and hundreds of sailors who live in Hemet and travel every day down that corridor because they can’t afford to live here.
ASJ: Pacific Beacon was a public-private contract and I believe that you are in the fore front of the Navy doing public private contracts here in San Diego, and that was successful one. But on the other hand, the Navy Broadway Complex, the Pacific Gateway, the building we are sitting in right now, has moved a lot more slowly than if you were going to had built your new headquarters on 32nd Street.
HERING: We don’t have any room. I just told you, we’re expanding. Naval Base S.D. is one of the largest facilities in our inventory and yet it occupies the smallest footprint.
ASJ: Let’s move to a subject that is very close to your heart, which is sustainability. I understand the Navy has actually cut its power usage significantly while you’ve been here.
HERING: I created a sustainability strategic plan two years ago. So today we run the largest photovoltaic collector at North Island with programs to go from 1.5 megawatts to potentially 40 to 50 megawatts. We’ve embraced an opportunity with UCSD and SDSU to look at potentials for conversion technology, taking waste and creating energy. We use three-fifths of the biodiesels product in California, we run the largest geothermal plant, in China Lake. We have installed over the last couple of years, three wind turbines on San Clemente Island. And potentially, my expectation by my strategic goals is, by 2050, we are able to produce through renewable resources, 80 percent of our peak demand.
Alison St John: That’s Admiral Len Hering, Commander of the Navy’s Southwest region. He hands over the command to Admiral William French later this week.