Chatsworth Native Serves at U.S. Navy’s “Secret City” in Mojave Desert

By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach

CHINA LAKE, Calif. - Cindy Mikiel, a native of Chatsworth, California, plays a key role in supporting the Navy's research, testing and evaluation of cutting-edge weapons systems for today’s sailors.

Mikiel is a liberty recreation program manager serving at Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) 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 liberty recreation program manager, Mikiel is responsible for the off-duty recreation program on China Lake, which coordinates events for sailors.

“I enjoy taking sailors and support civilians out on trips all over California to heighten morale for those who serve our country,” Mikiel said.

Mikiel is a 2015 Granada Hills High School graduate and Cerrocsos Community College graduate. According to Mikiel, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Chatsworth.

“I learned growing up that what you do and how you treat people matters," Mikiel said. "Your reputation is your resume at life. I also learned nothing matters more than the people you love.” 

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 (RDAT&E) 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, Mikiel is most proud of getting promoted to liberty manager.

“It was my dream job and as a fitness lead, we received thank-you letters for accommodating the visiting Marines overnight after training,” Mikiel said. “We were adaptive. Whatever the mission needed for our service, like as after the earthquake of last year, we were there for all service members day and night.”

Mikiel has military ties with family members who have previously served and is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“My father served in the Army in the Korean War and my son served in the Army in the Iraq War,” said Mikiel. "My work honors them in my way, by honoring our people here.”

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Mikiel, 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 for our sailors equals repaying the tiniest bit of their sacrifices with some care, kindness and appreciation,” Mikiel said.

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