U.S. Navy sailors unload cargo containers from an Improved Navy Lighterage System Causeway Ferry during Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore 2016, June 14, 2016 on Naval Magazine Indian Island, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Norman) Tucked away off the forested Jefferson County coastline 20 miles north of the Hood Canal Bridge, there’s a little-known Navy installation that serves as the “logistics backbone” for ships heading out to the Pacific Ocean.
Naval Magazine Indian Island serves as the last stop for many ships where they load up on “fuel, food and munitions” before heading out to the open ocean, said Cmdr. Rocky Pulley, commanding officer of the installation.
“Naval Magazine Indian Island plays a huge role in supporting our troops abroad, going west, all the way to the Persian Gulf,” Pulley said.
It has more than 100 magazines that store conventional weapons, ranging from small arms ammunition to aircraft ordnance.
The magazines, which are colloquially called “igloos,” are concrete, dome-like above-ground structures covered with grass. Smaller ones require munitions to be carried in by hand. The large ones can fit a forklift inside.
Naval Magazine Indian Island is the only deep water ordnance facility on the West Coast with no access restrictions, such as shallow bridges or water. The island has a 1,650-foot-long pier with 55 feet of draft available at the average low-tide height of water, making it so the Navy can load munitions onto any vessel in the fleet docked at the island’s pier.
An average of 50 aircraft carriers, ammo ships, guided-missile destroyers , guided-missile submarines , U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats, commercial barges, container ships and other Navy vessels visit the island each year.
“There’s nothing that leaves the Northwest region that doesn’t come by NAVMAG Indian Island or isn’t serviced at sea with conventional ordnance that’s supplied by Indian Island,” Pulley said.
Each type of ship has specific procedures for loading and unloading ordnance, depending on the size and type of vessel, Pulley said.
An aircraft carrier has a large open hangar deck with hundreds of personnel who can load large amounts of ammo on pallets or in containers in a matter of about 10 to 12 hours.
For destroyers and cruisers with vertical launch systems, they require a more complex process to load ordnance with specialized handling equipment. It can take a few days to load one of these vessels, sometimes requiring up to three of the mobile cranes on the island to hoist ordnance into tight spots.
For submarines, a full load-out can take five to six days, depending on how many torpedo tubes the boat has.
“There’s a ramp that goes down in a 45-degree angle that you load the torpedo on with a cable and pulley system that lowers it down into the spaces and you bring it back up,” Pulley said. “It’s just one at a time.”The island is home to the Department of Defense’s largest container crane, called “Big Blue” for the pastel blue coat of paint on the metal behemoth. The diesel-electric-powered crane can lift 89,000 pounds of munitions […]