LEONARDO, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — You may not know it, but New Jersey is home to a naval base that supplies warships around the world – making it a large target.
On Wednesday, CBS2’s Meg Baker got a rare and exclusive look at how all of those weapons are protected.
A drill was held Tuesday – a siren issuing a warning, a rapid fire, and a defense. The waters surrounding Naval Weapons Station Earle in Leonardo, New Jersey in Monmouth County are restricted and patrolled by armed Navy security forces at all times.
In case of attack, the sailors are more than ready.
“It’s important to go through these drills – so, the muscle memory – in case anything does happen in real life, we can better go through it without hesitation,” said U.S. Navy Master at Arms Hunt Ashmore.
Ashmore is training to be a gunner, and was firing blank ammunition during the exercise.
CBS2’s Baker was invited onboard the Navy Harbor Patrol boat in Sandy Hook Bay to get a behind-the-scenes look at the station’s first line of defense. Geared up in a life vest and earplugs, it was go time.
Another boat played the role of the enemy, coming in hot toward the good guys.
“Today I will be the coxswain of the vessel, so I’ll be the one driving the boat; making sure that, you know, that my gunner maintains position,” said Navy Master at Arms Jerry Lone.
Lone first tried to make contact with the threat. He said communication to vessels on the water is key.
Weapons Station Earle is the only base on the East Coast with the ability to load and unload ammunition from warships at a safe distance from heavily-populated areas, thanks to the 2.9-mile pier in Sandy Hook Bay.
That makes the base a major target.
“All of the missiles and bombs and ammunition that they use to bring the fight to the enemy come from this pier,” said Bill Addison.
As we approach summer, the base reminds boaters to stay away from restricted waters for national safety and their own safety.
The Navy will conduct machine gun harbor protection exercises through May 12. Towns affected by the noise include Leonardo, Atlantic Heights, Belford, Middletown, and Sandy Hook National Park.