Lt. Col. Craig Short epitomizes the professionalism and dedication an Army officer possesses, no matter the assignment.
During his 23-year military career, Short, commander of the Hawthorne Army Depot (HWAD), served deployments in support of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, held numerous command position, earned his commission through the ROTC program and married his college sweetheart.
Although he has been commander at Hawthorne for less than a year, Short was thrust into the national spotlight after a 60-millimeter mortar exploded in a tube during a training exercise, killing seven Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Short, whose command of the sprawling ammunition depot is usually a low-key but important assignment, said the accident could have happened anywhere in the world. During the hours and days after the accident, the people of Hawthorne and the employees of the depot reached out to assist the U.S. Marine Corps. The community conducted a vigil to honor the fallen and injured Marines.
Short said the depot received EOD (Explosive Ordnance Demolition) support from Naval Air Station Fallon, and assistance from the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center near Bridgeport, Calif.
“We have a professional relationship with the Mountain Warfare Center,” Short pointed out.
Since the incident, Short offered praise to the local first responders who tried to save lives and tend to the injured.
“I am very proud of how depot personnel — contractor and government employees — and the community reacted to the indcident on 18 March,” Short said. “It was a very tragic event.”
The Marine Corps, which recently relieved three officers of command, continues to investigate the incident.
Soft-spoken but focused on the depot’s mission, Short accepted command at Hawthorne on June 26, 2012. And brought his wife and two children with him. The Petaluma, Calif., native attended the University of Nevada, Reno for two-and-a-half years before transferring to Cal Poly Pomona, where he earned his degree. He attended his Field Artillery Officer Basic Course at Fort Sill, Okla.
Short, though, decided to pursue another career field and transitioned to become an ordnance officer.
“I spent time in an ordnance maintenance section fixing trucks,” Short said of his early days in the Army.
During his 23-year career, Short spent more than 10 years in Germany, deployed to Afghanistan twice and to Turkey in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Army also assigned him to Fort Carson Colo., where he served as deputy commander of the 43rd Sustainment Brigade, and to Fort Irwin, Calif., where he served as a maintenance company commander.
While in Afghanistan, Short spent time at Forward Operating Base Salerno and Bagram and Kandahar air fields.
Being from the West, though, gave him an advantage when he assumed command of the depot lst year. His duties center on working with the Walker River Paiute Tribe and Mineral County
Short said the depot enjoys a strong relationship with the Walker River Reservation north of Hawthorne.
“This is a testament to reach out (with the tribe) and work with the community. We have worked with them a dozen items,” Short said.
The U.S. Army and the tribe have a working agreement to allow government trains hauling ordnance to travel through the reservation.
The agreement covers responsibility in case of a train derailment or other accidents. Likewise, members of the tribe conducted a ceremony on the HWAD grounds after the fatal live-fire accident by blessing the deceased and injured military personnel.
Short also said he is pleased with his tenure in the Nevada desert.
“Hawthorne is close to family (in California), but I forgot how remote it was to Reno and Sparks,” Short said, grinning.
But this command is a hidden jewel for an ordnance officer because of the depot’s mission during wartime and the community’s unwavering support for the military.
“This is a very patriotic town,” Short said. “We’re here building a relationship, teamwork and partnering with the community. I attend numerous Mineral County events, and we have a pretty good relationship with the town.”