By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer- Get your Base access, (read on to learn how), and check out the Grand Opening of the Base’s Multipurpose Religious Facility and their new Gym on Friday, December 1. Then on Saturday, December 2 head to Winter Wonderland from 5-8pm. “We will have pictures with Santa and many activities, functions and things for the community to come out and support and be a part of during our holiday celebration,” says Dr. Will Artis, Navy Fleet and Family Readiness Director.
“If you need base access. Try to give them a call first because there’s some documentation they have you fill out in advance. And it’s a timely process. It takes a couple of days to get done. Any base access inquiries need to go through the China Lake Naval Weapons Station Visitor Center. That’s the front gate and their number is 760-939-3160.
“Many people don’t know that we have programs that if you can get base access that you can enjoy and entertain,” says Dr. Artis. “Many people believe that it takes a military person to be able to access the installation. Although we have strict access guidelines, people can come in use the services that we offer after going through the vetting process to gain access to the installation. We’re not closed off to the community. We want to work with the community to help support the community in any way we can because this community is largely based on military population, both civilian and active.”
Artis wants to improve communications between the Base and the community. He works with Dr. Ostash at Sierra Sands Unified School District and they have become friends after traveling to Washington DC to facilitate the new Richmond School. The China Lake Police work with Ridgecrest Police Department (RPD) with security issues. Artis is looking to join RPD to “do things like job fairs.”
There is collaboration with Cerro Coso Community College (CCCC) as well. “We are talking about bringing CCCC on the base as a authorized school to be able to serve our service member population and their families. It is a very intricate, very detailed process, but one that we are working towards to get them on the Base.”
Dr. Artis is involved in the community off the base. He is the Coach for Burroughs High School Basketball Team. Their first home game is Friday, November 18. He says, “Please come on out. Support us.” This transpired after a collaboration with Burroughs High and Dr. Artis’ department to bring seniors on Base to have a pool party. During casual conversation the athletic director said, “Do you know anybody who can coach in basketball? Because we’re looking for a coach” Captain Vaughn replied, “You got the right guy right here.” Dr. Artis tells us, “The rest is history. I used to coach Marines; I played basketball for majority of my life as a younger man, teenager. It just all worked out; I became the head coach. It’s been a wild ride and now we’re getting ready to kick off our season out of town on November 15.” He loves working with the kids.
The good doctor came to China Lake this year on January 31. He is, “New York City, born and raised. I was born in Brooklyn; I lived in Queens, South Jamaica, Queens for probably about 20 – 25 years on and off.” It takes a geography lesson to follow where he was educated.
“University of North Carolina, Webster University, Walden University, seminary, University of Arkansas. “He has participated in a variety of different schools and is considering Trinity Law School.
He is new to Ridgecrest, but not new to the desert. “I did two years at Fort Irwin in a very remote and isolated area in the middle of Mojave as well. I spent about a year and a half at a district based in Barstow which is in the desert. So I’m very familiar with the desert very comfortable.
“This is a different environment. Because Barstow and Fort Irwin They’re very remote and isolated, with not a lot outside the front gate. The little town of Ridgecrest is a special little town that operates outside the front gate.”
Before we end our conversation we need to address an issue that is apparently making the rounds on social media. He tells us, “ I want to squelch those rumors or myths that there’s controversy or there’s issues. I take the Childrens’ Development Center (CDC) very, seriously. I take all children youth programs very seriously. Because when you’re working with military, children and civilian children, Department of Defense, civilians … You take those things seriously, those are some of the most precious assets that we have. We have to follow policies and procedures and when we get outside of that, you try to get it back in the box. It just disrupts the apple cart a little bit. I want to squelch the rumor that there’s controversy. No one’s child is at risk of not receiving care. The CDC is open; we’re going through a transition in leadership.” He believes the people are uncomfortable with rule changes, but stresses there is no controversy.
This soft spoken, pleasant man says of Veterans Day, “I’m thankful to all the Veterans that have served this country. I’m thankful to all of them who have sacrificed their lives, their family time committed to the service for this country, deeply appreciative of them, and what they stand for and what they’ve done. We couldn’t be where we are today without our wonderful veteran population of folks.” Her quotes from a movie, ”We sleep comfortably under the blanket of freedom that they provide us and have provided us.” He adds, “My appreciation for them is immeasurable; you can’t measure it. I’m just so thankful for that.”