Lancaster native serves at U.S. Navy’s ‘secret city’” in Mojave Desert

Pedro Villejas (Photo by PO2 Bradley Gee)

Pedro Villejas, a native of Lancaster, Calif., plays a key role in supporting the Navy’s research, testing and evaluation of cutting-edge weapons systems for today’s sailors.

Villejas is a welder apprentice serving at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, known as “Secret City.”

“A vast weapons testing and training range operated by the U.S. Navy in California’s Mojave Desert, this location is where military and civilian personnel developed or tested nearly every significant airborne weapon system since 1943,” said NAWS China Lake public affairs officer, Margo Allen.

As a welder apprentice, Villejas is responsible for working with fabricators to read blueprints and putting mission-essential parts together to re-fabricate them and work with fire suppression.

“I get to work with people of other trades and learn more about not only my job, but others, and this gives me a broader experience in my field of work,” Villejas said.

Villejas is a 2017 Little Rock High School graduate. According to Villejas, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Lancaster.

“I used to work with my dad who was a roofer and he did other various jobs which included cars and woodwork,” Villejas said. “I took with me his work ethic which has helped me succeed in my career.”

NAWS China Lake is located in the Western Mojave Desert region of California, approximately 150 miles north of Los Angeles. The installation is the Navy’s largest single piece of real estate, representing 85 percent of the Navy’s land for Research, Development, Acquisition, Test and Evaluation use and 38 percent of the Navy’s land holdings worldwide. In total, its two ranges and main site cover more than 1.1 million acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Operating a facility as large as China Lake is a monumental task, considering 19,600 square miles of restricted and controlled airspace makes up 12 percent of California’s total airspace. Compounding the challenge is the diverse nature of the operations that includes weapons testing and evaluation in air and ground ranges, research and development in highly sophisticated laboratories, and numerous science and technology projects ranging from sensors to chemical and material systems.

The workforce at China Lake is a combination of military, civilians and contractors employed across many different commands focused on researching and evaluating cutting edge technological systems, and training of Navy personnel preparing for combat in areas around the world.

China Lake and the men and women who serve there play a key role in the Navy’s broader mission of protecting American interests on the world’s oceans.

According to Navy officials, maintaining maritime superiority is a vital part of a Navy that is present today and prepared for tomorrow. The impact affects Americans and their interests around the world, as more than 70 percent of the Earth is covered by water and 90 percent of all trade travels by sea.

The foundation of the Navy the nation needs includes a focus on warfighting, warfighters and the future of the fighting force.

“I am confident that we will maximize the Navy we have today while delivering the Navy that our nation will rely upon tomorrow,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “We will do so with urgency. Our fleet will be a potent, formidable force that competes around the world every day, deterring those who would challenge us while reassuring our allies and partners.”

Though there are many ways to earn distinction in a command, community and career, Villejas is most proud of obtaining his associate’s degree in welding technology that has helped broaden his career at China Lake.

“It has shown a level of dedication to this career path that can be applied to future careers,” Villejas said.

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Villejas, as well as others at the command, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations to follow.

“Working with the Navy means a lot to me because I have the opportunity to serve the men and women here who are serving for us and protecting our country,” Villejas said.

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